It doesn’t get any more American than our Nation’s Flag waving in the air at a Professional Football game. Or does it?

I’ve already lost half my readers.

Dare to dig deeper and hear me out. What if you weren’t proud of our nation’s current condition? Should you just go through the motions and keep quiet to appease the person to your right and left? Do issues exist if we ignore them?

There is a clear division between the United States right now. It started last year when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a seat during the National Anthem as a statement for racial injustice. Then more players in the National Football League followed suit and it even gained the attention of President Donald Trump. President Trump shared his feelings on what should happen to players that didn’t stand during the National Anthem and the NFL responded. They just didn’t respond the way our President and viewers expected.

None of us will know for sure the reasoning so many players only participated after the President's statement, but sometimes it takes a challenge to drive out our own indifference. Now, many NFL teams are joining in their own ways by kneeling during or before the National Anthem or not attending at all. While I’m sure President Trump meant well as a decisive leader, many teams in the NFL dared to make a statement. It’s true, the NFL and its players are a multi-million dollar organization. Their salaries shouldn’t disqualify them from using their notoriety for a cause. After all, we the viewers are who drives that multi-million dollar organization. There was a time we could have our children look up to people in the public eye with pride because they stood for something. Now, we scrutinize them when they break laws but dehumanize them by saying, “Chase a ball! That’s what you’re paid to do!” While we all love Sunday night football from the sidelines, these are people whom are affected by the same realities we are. Maybe some haven’t forgotten where they came from or are thankful for their blessings. Either way, dissecting their lives to find reasons to discredit them is simply not enough when their message is a call to rid our country of a cancer.

I absolutely understand why it would seem disrespectful to do anything but stand during our National Anthem. It goes without saying. Holding the United States flag upside down is a recognized sign of “distress.” Those who may not know, might potentially think it was also a sign of disrespect. So we have to expand our minds and view it through another lens. One less offensive lens that will help us see the bigger picture.

Most participating football players have shared their passions for our great service men and women. They’ve tried hard to share their message but it seems to get lost in translation. It’s easy to be self-righteous and hyper focus on such an emotional symbol of our country, but let’s be honest for a minute. What are you doing in your own personal life to combat racism? Be honest. Are you letting that distasteful joke slide among your friends? Are you agreeing with that social media post because the Internet offers zero accountability? You see, our soldiers fight battles near and far but we are all responsible for an invisible threat such as racism. It’s powerful. Racism claimed at least 6 million lives in WWII and played a major role in the Civil War. It has no place in this great nation and it’s absolutely worth fighting against.

The Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones took a knee purposely BEFORE the National Anthem but nonetheless, viewers were enraged, threatening to boycott them and the NFL. Maybe it’s not about the flag at all. I’ve seen at least two American Flags flying high this week that are torn, mangled and shouldn’t be waving in the air, but I don’t believe their owners hate our country. I see this is too common yet we’re screaming from the rafters to “respect the flag!”

Is it possible that racial inequality exists and if so, shouldn’t we be actively finding a solution? It’s much easier to claim those taking a knee only want attention than to address a real problem. A problem even you may be a part of. I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve felt compelled to stand alone for something you felt worthy. Was it the kind of attention you wanted? Kaepernick is unemployed and ticket holders are boycotting the NFL. It would have been much easier to just stand for the song, right? Let’s face it, discussing racial inequality makes us uncomfortable. Maybe it should and maybe it needed the attention or wouldn’t have gained momentum had it not been by something so controversial. I still witness racism all around me by otherwise good and moral people. I also realize if it can be so bold where I live, it’s most likely much larger than we realize. No person can be just a little racist. Believing ALL Americans deserve an equal “pursuit of happiness” IS patriotism.

I challenge each reader to engage in a conversation with someone whom doesn’t agree with your viewpoint. Do it without using words like “snowflake” or “racist.“ These conversations need to happen. If you haven’t already realized our country needs to be unified now more than ever, and while we fight among ourselves over Football and Flags, tensions grow with North Korea. Hurricanes are riddling our homefront and other countries without necessary resources.

The flag is only a symbol of what our country stands for but the people and their values, they are what make us great. Dare to be great. Dare to rise above disagreements and hold yourselves with courage to fight direct and indirect threats to our great nation. Honor the flag and what it stands for with integrity and a sense of self-duty.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Jacklyn York is a digital contributor for Townsquare Media in Wichita Falls. She graduated from Midwestern State University with a degree in Mass Communications and has a passion for writing and photography.

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