When people try to guess what the stance of the coach of a Southern football team might be towards national anthem protests, the notion of Southern conservatism might be the first idea that comes to mind. However, Coach Nick Saban of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide gave a response on his radio show that might shock those who would assume his conservatism.
When a veteran called into Saban's talk show the past week, Saban laid out his views concerning NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Saban said, "I don't think that what these people are doing is in any way, shape or form meant to disrespect a veteran or somebody like yourself [speaking to the veteran] who has... sacrificed so much for all of us to have the quality of life we want to have."
But, wait a second, isn't Saban in Alabama, one of the most conservative pro-Trump states in the country?
Yes, but Saban also doesn't give a damn about that.
Saban goes on in his talk show to speak about respect and trust in his team, two traits which he believes are vital to his team's success. Personally, I could not agree with Saban more about the topic of kneeling during the anthem.
First, players are not outright throwing up a middle finger to the flag during the national anthem.
They are boldly, but respectfully, kneeling or sitting in protest to bring awareness to racial inequity. We as Americans get so damn caught up in the symbolism of a flag that we value the damn flag over respecting the rights and beliefs granted to all Americans. Freedom of speech and expression is something that everyone deserves to enjoy, white, black, straight, gay, or any other paradigm of perceived "opposites."
At the end of the day we are all American and the same in the eyes of the law.
Second, let's reflect on Saban's principles of trust and respect.
It's perfectly natural to have different opinions than others, especially related to something held so closely to the patriotic heart of America as our national anthem and the flag. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that it is not our place to impose our opinions and beliefs on others just because we don't like what they are doing. America's roots are embedded in the rights of individual expression and the freedom to do so. The minute we realize that we should respect other people's rights, even if we don't agree with how they express them, is the minute we can begin focusing on the problem at hand.
As Saban says, when we can respect our individual differences, we can come together as a team for one unified goal.
Third, we should focus on the problem of why the kneeling began — to protest the oppression of people of color in this country.
These protests were never about disrespect for the flag or some radical left-wing attempt to brainwash the youth but to bring awareness to a problem that people, particularly those in power, weren't giving enough attention to.
I call this the "white people in denial syndrome," because it seems to me that my conservative peers as a whole want to pretend that racism is no longer a thing and that equal treatment is present in our country, but when I've tried to present the facts proving otherwise my peers become angry, defensive, and deny all such evidence. This happens because people grow up in their white-washed bubbles and never get to see the world for what it really is because they are sheltered behind prosperity and what mainstream media tells them to believe. I digress.
No matter what you believe about racial oppression or kneeling for the flag out of protest, Saban gets it right here. Getting angry and trying to bash people for what they believe in results in nothing but hate and disdain for our fellow Americans. Respecting peoples' differences of opinions, regardless of how wrong you think they may be, is how we move to a solution. A solution that makes everyone proud to stand beneath our flag. A solution that makes people beam with pride, not sarcasm, when they say "this is America."
Don't misconstrue what the situation looks like, but instead try listening to what the players are saying and respect their right to say it instead of getting up in arms in assumptions about what you THINK the players are doing.