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To Trump and the players

| Monday, October 2, 2017

I had no idea that my second Viewpoint column would be on the same topic as the first. But the issue of standing for the flag became a lot more complicated in the short time between columns, so here we are.

My previous column, “Why we stand for our flag,” made the case for participation in the national anthem. To briefly summarize: We do not stand because we think America is infallible or to ignore the problems of our time. We stand because we recognize the sacrifices which have been made to preserve our country and the optimism inherent in our shared values. The occasion of the national anthem — a time to remember our fallen and unite in appreciating the ideals towards which we strive — requires a high order of respect. For these reasons, the players are wrong to not stand respectfully for the flag and join in the unity of national anthem.

However, it is within the players’ rights to not stand. The exercise of standing for the flag draws its value from the act of a free choice to stand. In suggesting that we infringe upon this value, the president also missed the mark. He inappropriately called fellow citizens “sons of bitches” and argued that they should lose their job for expressing opinions with which he disagrees. In doing so, the president supported the same logic used by campus radicals to shut down potentially offensive presentations and by Google to eliminate dissenting employees. This logic leads down one path: reinforcing an ideological echo chamber and undermining First Amendment protections. Tyranny is an exaggeration. But at the least, this logic is as antithetical to our national spirit as not standing in recognition of the flag.

Luckily, you need not choose between the two sides.  Don’t be fooled by the media narrative. They have constructed a false choice of complete allegiance, when in fact, the choice is not so clear. You can agree that the players’ message is important and also hold that their tactics are wrong.  You can think that the basic point that players shouldn’t kneel is correct and also condemn the president’s conduct in communicating this point. It is not the case that you must be completely with the players or completely with the president. Don’t forget, also, to enjoy watching football.  For many of us, watching football is a time to slow down after a long week and before another one. Don’t let anyone take that away.

Finally, Mr. President, stick to the important issues. You occupy the highest office in the land.  Respect the office and its duties, and what it means to your country and the world. I’m just a college student, and I can barely find time to watch a half hour of TV during the week. I do not understand how, in the wake of North Korea threatening to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific and shoot down American military planes in international airspace, major storms ripping through multiple states and Puerto Rico and your fellow (maybe?) Republicans trying to pass critical healthcare and tax reforms — a process that could benefit greatly from White House leadership — you find time to tweet about a decline in NFL ratings that you believe you caused. You are either the model of time management our parents want us to be, or you are easily distracted by the opportunity for self-promotion. I’m willing to bet on the latter.  To paraphrase Coach Devine from our favorite movie, “You’re our captain. Act like it.” It is time to stop running a campaign and begin running the country. The message stood in January, and it apparently still stands today … in October.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Nicholas Marr