Opinion: The kneeling protests and why they matter

Matthew Olienechak

Matthew Olienechak

I have no doubt that your news feeds are swamped with people voicing their opinion on the NFL protests. At that point, would any of you have the stamina to listen to yet another guy with a loud mouth give you his take on the situation? Would he be able to say anything that mattered, anything that hasn’t already been said 100 times over?

I almost didn’t write this column, but I came to realize it was inevitable I would tackle this subject. I think it is important, and I’ve never really been one to keep my thoughts to myself. 

So, where to begin?

President Donald Trump openly insults players who have taken part, screaming for their removal. “Faithful fans” say those involved are ungrateful, ignorant and undeserving of all that they’ve been “given.” A maelstrom of conflict and controversy consumes our social media streams, and the news cycle continues to feed into it while chasing those ratings increase.

It’s all because one man took a knee.

He didn’t take that knee because he wanted to protest the Trump administration. That’s just another attempted appropriation by liberals who lack the moral ambition to stand for any real cause, who cling to an unsustainable identity built only on opposition to a single man. He did it because in this country, people of color are oppressed; they’re oppressed by the highest branches of government, oppressed by our judicial system, oppressed by angry men championing a cause that was lost long ago.

It was never about one man. It never is. We can’t keep choosing easy targets. We can’t keep attacking the symptoms of our broken society and ignoring the causes of it.

Those who have taken a knee during anthems played across the country realize that. They’ve chosen to make a statement, one that shows our country no longer stands for the ideals we claim it does. They’ve chosen to express their complaints in a peaceful manner, one that could have easily been ignored by their detractors. But their opponents find themselves unable to let it go, raging furiously against the protestors and their cause.

Is it because it offends their sense of patriotism, which they defend while sitting on their sofas during the national anthem? Perhaps they see sports as a safe space, so much like the ones they routinely ridicule, and want it to be free of any ideas that might make them uncomfortable. 

Or is it because they are afraid their identities as Americans, members of the greatest bastion of democracy this world has ever known, is built on lies and half-truths?

Whatever the reason, they’ve lashed out against these expressions of free speech. They’ll continue to, either until they’ve put out the flames of this movement or it consumes them and the corrupt systems they’ve chosen to defend.

It was former President John F. Kennedy who said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

I fear, for their sakes, that we may soon find the truth in those words. 

Matthew Olienechak is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].