Ian McCord is double majoring in business economics and finance at the University of Memphis. He grew up in and around Memphis and is the Vice President of the U of M College Democrats. He believes a fully functioning democracy has an energetic population capable of critiquing the every move of those in power.
The last thing we should be saying now is â€œpolitics should stay out of sports.â€ People are livid about racial inequality, and the president is attempting to silence them.Â This is a moment for conversation, not confrontation.
Spurring a national conflict is not the objective of these protests.Â These protests are driven by racial inequality. The current debate is focused on the familiar.
President Donald Trump decided to rehash a fight we have already had.Â In Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court ruled against prohibitions on desecrating the United States flag.Â The flag is as much a symbol of this country as the anthem and should be treated the same way.
People are more important than cloth and sound waves.Â Respect for the military has nothing to do with it.Â Soldiers died specifically for the right to burn the flag, ignore the anthem and forget the pledge. We are a nation where freedoms are protected, not where reverence is enforced.
Protests are designed to get attention.Â If they didnâ€™t, there wouldnâ€™t be any point.Â Players in the league are kneeling because it makes you uncomfortable, and that is 100 percent within their rights as citizens of this country, despite how the president feels.
Regardless of what anyone thinks about national symbols, this behavior from the executive branch is divisive. Trumpâ€™s remarks were designed to be controversial, and it has worked.Â He has completely distracted us from the topic the protests are about.
Race relations in this country have never been great. Even now, minorities are imprisoned longer and more often, not to mention how much more likely they are to be killed by the police.Â There is a constant and oppressive presence of racial prejudice in this countryâ€”Trump being the easiest example of that.
Our country is not at all the â€œLand of the Freeâ€ we pretend it to be. Racial tension seems to be the order of the day in 2017, and the leader of our country seems intent on stoking the fires for another 7 and a half years.
As a nation, we are too easily fooled by nationalistic rhetoric and divisive language. We should not cave to the easy excuse that â€œpolitics should not be in sportsâ€ and ignore our problems.
It took nearly one hundred years for the country that wrote, â€œAll men are created equal,â€ to free its slaves. It took another hundred for those minorities to gain the right to vote.
And now, 50 years after that, we continue to ignore racial inequality. We pretend that gunning minorities down is a good substitute for a justice system and that locking those same minorities up for as long as possible will abolish crime.
It is time to stop imagining our nationâ€™s sainthood.Â It is time to acknowledge our difficulties. And it is most definitely time to take responsibility for ourselves and our fellow citizens.