We must now take up the Texas U.S. senate race, the Nike swish, Russian trolls and, of course, chicken wings. The NFL season is just beginning, and already whether to kneel or not to kneel, or stand, fist raised, or locking arms or anything else you want to do, are overshadowing the point spread. To think this is all deliberately misdirected to con the easily conned – and it’s working wonderfully well. A bit of background: On Sept. 18, 2016, Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneeled on the sideline during the national anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. Actually, Kaepernick had been kneeling in games before then, but one noticed until a reporter asked him about his action. Other pro football players began kneeling at other games protesting against “systematic oppression,” “inequality and social injustice,” “racism and injustice in our criminal system,” “oppression of people of color in the United States” and to not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
There was no mention of disrespect for the military, Gomer Pyle, Normandy nor anything else. They were upset about a spate of white police officers fatally shooting black teenagers. Do you ever lose control of the situation?
That movement was hijacked, the best term, by President Donald Trump, turning a protest against a series of police shootings into an act of treason. Soon, the nation, the players and the NFL owners were divided into two camps: one side supported the kneeling as an act of free speech. In September 2016, President Barack Obama stated that Kaepernick was “exercising his constitutional right” to protest. He went on: “I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.” President Obama cited the following statistic: “African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over by police, as well as three times more likely to be searched, twice as likely to be arrested and twice as likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer, according to studies.”
In the other camp, William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, strongly opposed the decision to kneel. Not standing during the national anthem, he said, is “disrespectful of everyone who sacrificed to make this country what it is today — imperfect as it might be.” On Oct. 8, 2017, Vice President Mike Pence left a game between the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after members had knelt during the anthem, “because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” President Trump left no doubt, saying team owners should fire players (whom he called an obscenity) for taking a knee during the national anthem.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt strongly both ways. She criticized the protests as “dumb and disrespectful,” stating that athletes have the right to protest “if they want to be stupid.” The Supreme Court later issued a statement from Ginsburg stating that her comments were “inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond.” Apparently the American people have mixed emotions. According to a poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 54 percent of voters called kneeling during the anthem inappropriate, while 43 percent said that the practice is an appropriate way to bring attention to the problems that NFL players have cited for their protests.
What happens these days when Americans get divided over anything? One guess. The Russians stepped in to make matters worse. We’ve seen it in elections, social media and anything else they can make divisive. Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said Russian internet trolls, seeking to polarize Americans, helped fuel a debate. “We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start hashtagging out #TakeAKnee and also hashtagging out #BoycottNFL.” He added: “They were taking both sides of the argument this weekend … to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they are trying to push divisiveness in this country.” Smart man.
Now we come to the Texas situation. We have already seen how Russian operatives came to Texas to stir up trouble, taking both sides and stoking the fires. It may happen with this kneeling dispute, because the divisiveness is already there. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat challenging GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, in the midterm elections, went viral for saying there’s “nothing more American” than kneeling during the national anthem.
Republicans took the other side: “Comments like his are a slap in the face to every man and woman who has ever served our nation and put their lives on the line to defend American values,” said Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey. So whether to kneel or not to kneel has become yet another spat in our Texas senate race. The Kremlin is watching.
Papa John’s Pizza blamed the kneeling on slower sales, and fired its CEO. Sanderson Farms wondered if the protests were the reason why chicken wings sales had slowed. Nike, already a sponsor of Kaepernick’s, has doubled down by signing him to yet another lucrative contract and is using him in new ads for its shoes, dog sleds and whatever else Nike produces. Trump went ballistic about Nike, but not to be outdone, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Official State Demagogue of Texas, announced that he would no longer buy Nike products, and used one of his radio spots to blast the quarterback (who, incidentally, can’t get a job in the NFL and is suing). This latest divisiveness all started with a protest over white police shooting black teenagers, but got hijacked along the way.
Ashby kneels to tie his shoes at firstname.lastname@example.org