By Congressman Diane Black, Republican Gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee
When the National Football League’s Oilers moved from Houston to Nashville, my husband Dave and I were first in line for season tickets. Sports have always been an important part of our lives, and having an NFL team in our city was a dream come true.
We love going to the Titans games – spending Sunday afternoons with family and fellow Tennesseans, as well as opposition fans that we politely welcome to our city before watching their team crumble under the weight of a superior team and a superior fan base.
That’s why I was so disappointed to see the NFL and its players disrespect our flag and our anthem during this last season. When Dave and I first saw these protests, we made a decision. We decided that our season tickets would remain in a drawer all season and our seats would remain empty. We didn’t attend or watch a single NFL game this season.
Every American has the right to protest and to avail themselves of the right to free speech outlined in the 1 st Amendment. But just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we should.
Every time I stand, put my hand on my heart and join thousands of my fellow citizens in the singing of our national anthem, I get choked up.
I think about my husband Dave, who served in the Marines and fought on the ground in Vietnam. I think about my father, who fought in World War II. I think about my son Steve, who served in the Persian Gulf War.
And I think about the millions of sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers who have fought throughout our history to protect the values espoused in our anthem and represented by our flag.
Supporters of these protests claim that those kneeling are not protesting the flag or the anthem or the troops, but rather are protesting the treatment of minorities by our law enforcement.
Let’s address this briefly. First, if the protests aren’t about the flag, the anthem or the troops, then why are they occurring during the singing of the national anthem, which honors our flag and our troops?
The quarterback who instigated the protests, Colin Kaepernick, was candid in his intent. He said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” His protest was of the flag itself, because he believes that the flag represents oppression.
I reject that. The flag represents the freedom we have in this country – freedom unlike any country in the history of the world. Freedom that was earned in blood and sweat and sacrifice. Freedom that demands respect.
Second, there have certainly been incidents of improper actions in law enforcement. But these situations do not justify the generic demonization of hard-working, dedicated police officers across the country.
The men and women in law enforcement wake up every morning and risk their lives for our safety. They go to work knowing that there’s a chance they may not make it home that night.
These are people worth honoring, not insulting. And that’s the message the American people sent to the NFL this fall. Television ratings for the league were down almost 10% over last season, and stadiums around the country sat half empty, even during the playoffs. This will continue until the NFL shows us that it has heard
For now, my family has decided that we’ll spend Sunday afternoons fishing instead of attending Titans games. And that will continue until the NFL and its players show due respect for The Star Spangled Banner that waves for the land of the free and the home of the brave.
We are sending a package to the Titans this week to let them know. Along with a letter explaining why we won’t renew our tickets, we will send them back the unused tickets from last season.
If you agree and want to support our troops and police, we hope you will find your own way to make your voice heard with us. The people who defend us deserve our thanks.