I’m sure you’ve been bombarded with questions, comments and media requests since last Friday, but I hope that my message somehow makes it’s way to you. When I first heard reports that you had refused to stand during the national anthem, my initial reaction was similar to that of many others – I was outraged. I also judged you as a person. In the few days since then, I have learned more about you than I had following your entire career…your adoptive upbringing by a mixed family; your beliefs in faith and God; the charity work that you’ve done with kids; and…your strong beliefs about oppression (one only has to take a quick look at your twitter feed).
While I respect your right and intentions to make a statement about what you believe in, I believe that you’re doing it in a way that is disrespectful to those who fought to defend the same flag and our country so that you have those freedoms in the first place.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen countless commentaries and opinions about your actions…some even blasting you because of your background. Even Donald Trump chimed in on the matter. However, every post seems to be an emotional reaction or position on the act itself, rather than bringing attention to the issue at hand. To me, that seems counterproductive and even perpetuates more anger and blame.
Rather than trying to make a statement by passively sitting on the bench, I challenge you to take action to bring about change. Take note of Michael Jordan, who recently spoke out on the same issue. Jordan stated: “I can no longer stay silent.” Not only did he let his voice be heard by issuing a public statement, but he also made contributions of $1 million each to two organizations: the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony also called for change at the beginning of the 2016 ESPN ESPY Awards. They encouraged fellow athletes to get involved, collectively stating: “Now, as athletes, it’s on us to challenge each other to do even more than we already do in our own communities…It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what are we doing to create change…let’s use this moment as a call to action for all professional athletes to educate ourselves…Speak up. Use our influence…And renounce all violence…And most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.”
Following your actions, you stated: “To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to — I’ll stand.”
My message to you is to stand now. Stand and take action to bring about the positive changes that you want to see. Be a part of the solution rather than saying “things need to change.”
Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So, get off the sideline (and the bench) and DO something – write your congressman, get involved with local government, bring about awareness, get out in the community and reach out to your fellow man. I’ll close with the words of Barack Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”