The NFL could not have anticipated the response of many fans to their “kneeling protest” in week 3 of the current season. Many fans burned or returned official NFL gear (no small sacrifice knowing what these items cost). Others cancelled Direct TVs NFL package and were given full refunds. I think the backlash has only begun since many fans already had purchased tickets and were curious to see the extent of the protest movement. I’m afraid some players were caught in the middle of this argument, wishing to support their teammates yet wishing to support the very symbol of our freedoms. The prime example was that of Steeler Alejandro Villanueva who stood by himself in the tunnel leading to the field while his teammates remained in the locker room. All Americans, including veterans, believe in the freedom of speech and the right to protest. My objection (and likely those of many others) is the disrespect for our flag and national anthem. I can’t see any connection between the freedoms all veterans have served to protect (represented by the flag) and social injustice. I don’t know if we will ever be able to agree on the exact definition of social justice because each of us views events through our own beliefs and experiences. Laws and criminal justice are supposed to be blind, but those enforcing these laws are not (blind).
Police may react differently to individuals based on their past experiences and knowledge of local crime statistics. I honestly don’t believe any police officer wants to harm anyone, but may react (or overreact) to a given situation and perceived threat. A dead police officer can’t serve the community therefore the first priority of any officer is self-preservation. Improving relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve is the first step in gaining social justice. An officer must know the community he/she serves and believe that those within the community have his/her back. Keeping neighborhoods safe should be a joint effort where law-abiding citizens cooperate with the police. Ideally we need more minority officers to patrol minority neighborhoods. Officers who resemble those within the community are more likely to perceive situations in a similar fashion to those they serve. Our flag is a symbol of the nation offering the greatest opportunities for people of all colors and backgrounds. Disrespecting our flag and national anthem will not bring unity or justice. In fact it will create an atmosphere of division between those struggling to support their families and those who have achieved great wealth in the very system they feel is unfair. Regardless of where we go from here, the NFL will never be viewed the same.