Reaching AmericaIt Is Time To Start a real conversation about why NFL players are kneeling

Now that we’re in the thick of football season and the initial reactions to the phenomenon of the national anthem kneelers continues with even cheerleaders and youth athletes participating, it is time to start a serious nuanced conversation about it. As the president of Reaching America, an organization that addresses complex issues impacting the African American community, I am no stranger to letting my controversial opinions be known, so I’ll go first. I wholeheartedly believe...
4 years ago

Now that we’re in the thick of football season and the initial reactions to the phenomenon of the national anthem kneelers continues with even cheerleaders and youth athletes participating, it is time to start a serious nuanced conversation about it.

As the president of Reaching America, an organization that addresses complex issues impacting the African American community, I am no stranger to letting my controversial opinions be known, so I’ll go first.

I wholeheartedly believe NFL players should have found another way to protest. I also strongly believe that they have a very legitimate reason to be upset. We all do.

But simply getting attention then doing nothing with it is a waste of the incredible platform these athletes have earned.

Protesting in general isn’t enough. We should learn from the great Civil Rights movement leaders who taught us that having a clear plan with goals and strategies is necessary to bring the other side to the table.

And I hesitate to use the phrase “the other side.” There is no other side in many the issues these players are speaking out about.

It is no secret that America’s justice system needs an overhaul, it comes as no surprise that opportunities for minority and underprivileged communities need to be expanded, and we all believe that a government that doesn’t represent all people truly doesn’t represent anyone.

It isn’t an opinion to say that black males receive harsher sentences than white males, even after accounting for the facts surrounding the case, it’s a fact.

I don’t just think occupational licensing schemes cut the bottom rungs off the ladder of opportunity for young entrepreneurs, I can show you the statistics.

There is no hiding behind a grey area on some of these problems. It isn’t up to interpretation or opinion, so whether you vote R or D shouldn’t factor in.These are things left, right, black, white, and everyone in between can agree on. So let’s name the issues and bring everyone to the table.

One of my frustrations with the NFL players in particular is that we don’t know what they are protesting, and we don’t know what kinds of changes they’d like to see. Do they want better communication with their teams’ owners, or are their complaints broader? Without an answer to that question kneeling just became a catch-all for anyone to use to say “I’m mad,” but not have to do the hard work of making change.

The players who have used their talents, hard work, and ability to shine a light on the need for change now have the responsibility to further the conversation.

So let’s ask some questions:

Who are the stakeholders?

What are the issues we want to address?

What are the “easy” issues we can tackle first?

Some pundits and political hacks on both sides will say we can’t do it. They’ll throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and say it is all or nothing, that “the other side” doesn’t deserve their cooperation or respect.

Those people are distractions who are only furthering their own agenda.

Real leaders know that policy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans scoring points with their base, or rabble-rousers will bull horns getting on TV. This is about real solutions to complex problems.

Derrick Hollie

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