By Alan J. Steinberg
With NFL 2017 season soon coming to an end, it may well be remembered mostly for the the kneelers — those players, predominantly African-American, who chose not to stand during the National Anthem at NFL pre-game ceremonies.
I salute the NFL Kneelers for being young men of principle who were willing to risk their NFL careers and endorsement potential for the values in which they deeply believe. I have special admiration for the African-American kneelers. They are justifiably proud of their heritage, and I deeply respect them for caring about those less fortunate in their community.
The kneelers are correct in decrying the fact that racial injustices still exist in America. There continue to be too many cases of police brutality against inner city minorities. It is laudable that individuals of the prominence of these players should point this out to the American public.
In retrospect, while I believe that the kneeling during the National Anthem was a legitimate form of protest, I think, with historical perspective, that it was somewhat ineffective.
I am 68 years old, and for much of my life, I have been in the forefront of the struggle to eliminate racial injustice. In my youth, I marched in demonstrations in my native city of Pittsburgh as a protest against discriminatory practices in the construction industry.
Yet perhaps my most significant memory in this regard will always be the Summer Olympics in Mexico City in 1968, in which American track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the National Anthem as a protest against the racism that was so shamelessly prevalent in America during that time.
In that year of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, as was Robert F. Kennedy, the white presidential candidate most trusted by African-Americans. The Kerner Commission report issued that year attributed widespread bigoted practices of police brutality against African-Americans as the cause of the racial unrest spreading throughout urban America. And America continued to deprive Muhammad Ali of his right to practice his craft, in violation of the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
That is why I vigorously defended the raising of fists by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. And I will always be proud to have done so.
But we have come a long way since those tragic days of 1968. Certainly, racism and practices of police brutality still exist, but to a much lesser extent than 50 years ago.
Where such bigotry and hatred still exist, I will stand with the NFL Kneelers in alerting the American public to the need to eliminate these cancers on the American body politic.
Their kneeling through the National Anthem, however, provided ammunition for those advocates of racism to damage their cause. If they would find some other means of protest, millions of Americans would follow them in their march towards a better America. …