Professional football players kneeling or staying in the locker room during the National Anthem have raised the anger of some, but is the anger toward the players misplaced?

Why are these players protesting? A thoughtful reading of American history leads to the recognition that public policies and practices have often discriminated against racial minorities, resulting in the denial of dignity, economic suffering, social exclusion, and, at times, death at the hands of the state or by persons unknown.  That legacy unfortunately continues, and therefore the players are protesting against official and unofficial violations of “liberty and justice for all.”

Those on their knees do not love this country or the flag any less than the angry fans. They are displaying courage to defy the insults of the crowd, the ugly reality of racism and discrimination and threats of economic retaliation. It is courage to kneel before hostile crowds in order to remind us, gracefully and peacefully, that the promise of the flag and our Constitution is not yet fulfilled.

Today, racists and their allies are backing voter suppression laws in many states and obstructing investigations into policing policies that have led to the deaths of people of color. Is not the denial of citizen rights the real insult to the flag and military service?

Instead of protesting protests, let’s rise to the players’ call to work toward liberty and justice for all our citizens. Democracy requires no less and anything else is less than democracy.

Tom Clemens, Normal 

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