Nelson: Being offended doesn't make you right
For those who have had no social contact whatsoever in the past two years, there are some NFL players who have been kneeling during the national anthem. As you can imagine, seeing professional football players kneel during the anthem has understandably upset many Americans. The cause for which these players are protesting is racial injustice and by protesting peacefully they are exercising their First Amendment rights.
There seems to be two obvious questions: Do you disagree with the cause of protesting racial injustice and/or do you disagree with kneeling as the form of the protest? If you disagree with the former, the very implication of your disapproval would lead most to believe you may have racist tendencies. If you disagree with the specific act of kneeling during the anthem, you can, as many have, voice your opinion. That is your right as granted by our First Amendment, as it is the right of those who choose to kneel. The very purpose of a protest is to be noticed in order to shed light on the pertinent issue. Protests can make people uncomfortable because of a truth they reveal about society. They can even be disruptive and become violent, as they did during the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 60's.
The players' protests are peaceful, the only stipulation required by the First Amendment in order to assemble a protest. Although kneeling is seen by many to be offensive and disrespectful, I would be more offended if the players decided to sit on the bench looking at their phones while the anthem is playing, but they don't. By kneeling they are at least acknowledging the significance of the song and the importance it holds in our nation.
Personally, I will always stand for our national anthem. I have too much respect for our veterans, military men and women, and our first responders. I can't imagine a cause for protest arising in my lifetime that I would think kneeling for the anthem would be the appropriate response. That being said, I'm a middle-aged-white-man who has lived in North Dakota his entire life. I don't believe my life experiences have qualified me to tell other Americans the manner in which they should or should not protest racial injustice, other than to say it is their First Amendment right to do so.
By peacefully protesting for a just cause, the players are participating in the very democracy that those in our military have fought and died to defend. Many disagree with the form of these protests; even find them to be disrespectful and offensive. Yet as long as the protesters are abiding by the law, their right to exercise the First Amendment as they see fit is just as valid as any one else's.
To feel that these protests are disrespectful is justifiable. Taking offense to seeing highly paid athletes kneel during the national anthem is a feeling I've had myself.
But remember, just because you are offended doesn't mean you are right.
Nelson lives in Fargo.