Schultz: Sports, politics continue to intersect

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Schultz: Sports, politics continue to intersect

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Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Thank you.

Thank you, Colin Kaepernick. Because for as much as many Americans had a problem with you not standing for the national anthem, you ignited a debate and started a movement that needed to happen.

Thank you, Donald Trump. Because for as much as your divisiveness has poisoned the most powerful and once-respected office in the free world, you’ve managed to bring more people together – against you and your rhetoric, notwithstanding those on the outskirts who continue to devour hate speech.

The NFL – owners and players – pulled together Sunday like they haven’t in years. Decades, maybe. Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood with players for the national anthem before the team’s game in Detroit. All locked arms, including defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe, who kneeled during the anthem. Eight Detroit players also kneeled.

In other cities, a blur of NFL owners have responded to fire from Trump and defended their league and praised their players. Several players locked arms or exhibited other forms of protest. The Pittsburgh Steelers planned to remain in the locker room before their game against Chicago as a form of silent protest.

Sports and politics continue to intersect. This isn’t going away.

Thank you, Donald Trump. This would not have happened if you hadn’t delivered another divisive and turbo-lipped speech in Alabama in which you attacked the NFL for not doing more to stop players from kneeling during the anthem as a form of legal and silent protest – see: First Amendment – and then followed that the last two days with a series of Tweets, including Sunday’s: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

And: “...NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

NFL attendance and/or ratings are down for many reasons. A player’s quiet protest during the anthem is not one of them.

Blank issued a statement supporting his team and addressing Trump’s divisiveness Saturday night. He expanded on his thoughts before Sunday’s game. The entire transcript of his comments in a five-and-a-half-minute interview is below, but here are a few excerpts:

“The people who fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for a way of life, principles and values and part of that is reflected in freedom of speech and to have the ability to speak … on issues and (have) thoughtful and positive discussions that are based on inclusiveness, not divisiveness.”

“It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has. Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing.”

“The issues that they point to are legitimate issues and they need to be talked about and we need to make progress and get the country moving forward again. But you don’t do it by creating walls. Building walls never creates better listening and better responses.”

“I do feel a tremendous love for our flag and the national anthem and I’ll be standing and I always do and I’ll honor those who’ve served this country for the last several hundred years up through today, and given a great deal. But as I said, in my opinion, what they fought for was a way of life, democracy, a decent society. It’s called the United States for a reason. It’s not called States.”

Below is Blank’s transcript.

Here’s a link to my Saturday blogCheck AJC.com for more updates to this blog and others on the Falcons and around the NFL Sunday.

 

ARTHUR BLANK PREGAME

# I’m not sure what our players will do. Whatever they do is their choice and I’m supportive of our players and certainly supportive of their right to express freedom of speech. The people who fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren’t fighting for geography. They were fighting for a way of life, principles and values and part of that is reflected in freedom of speech and to have the ability to speak up and speak out on issues and bring them to public awareness and opening up thoughtful and positive discussions that are based on inclusiveness, not based on divisiveness. Divisiveness is never going to solve anything in a positive way. It never has in the history of this country. This country was built on a different set of principles. It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has. Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing.

# I’ll stay here on the field and stand here for the national anthem. It’s just a physical symbolic representation of what I said yesterday. I mean, the players love this country. They not only play this game but they work their fannies off personally and financially in giving back a whole variety of ways in our communities throughout the National Football League. In times of natural disasters, they often the first to step up and do very significant things. I see it day in and day out.

# Our players our out every week on Tuesdays in the community, visiting nursing homes and hospitals and schools and doing any of a number of things, not just went Harvey strikes or other hurricanes strike. They’re involved and giving back and care about the same things that we all care about. The issues that they point to are legitimate issues and they need to be talked about and we need to make progress and get the country moving forward again. But you don’t do it by creating walls. Building walls never creates better listening and better responses.

# I do feel as most Americans a tremendous love for our flag and the national anthem and I’ll be standing and I always do and I’ll honor those who’ve served this country for the last several hundred years up through today, and given a great deal. But as I said, in my opinion, what they fought for was a way of life, democracy, a decent society. It’s called the United States for a reason. It’s not called states. It’s called United States. United brotherhood means the best of us and not the worst of us. In my opinion, when you honor the American flag and you honor the national anthem, you honor the history of this country which has to do with our way of life and our values and our principles. It’s not just players but America has certain issues which some progress has been made on but not enough. America’s always done best with these issues when they’re brought to the forefront and discussed, debated and people respect each other and they listen, try to understand where somebody else is coming from, and they come up with some solutions and a better answer than what we have.

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