Why NFL #TakeTheKnee protests aren’t reaching anyone
Alejandro Villanueva stands for the anthem

Why NFL #TakeTheKnee protests aren’t reaching anyone

Posted September 25, 2017 07:33 PM by Chris Pandolfo Alejandro Villanueva stands for the anthem
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva (78) stands alone during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. Nam Y. Huh | AP Photo
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It’s difficult to see the NFL’s #TakeTheKnee protests as anything other than just another confused, opportunistic slam on President Trump, rather than a protest against … well, anything worth protesting. That’s why President Trump criticized Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests as “total disrespect of our heritage” Friday in Alabama.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He's fired!’" Trump said to applause, at a rally for Luther Strange in Alabama’s special Senate election. "Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for."

But these kneeling demonstrations are not about disrespecting the flag or the nation, we are told; they are about the alleged systemic racism in America and police brutality.


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“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way," Kaepernick told NFL Media when this all started last August 2016. "There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

That’s hard to believe.

It’s hard to believe that is the motivation behind the protests, because black lives are taken with impunity in places like Chicago – which just last week suffered its 500th homicide this year — and these players remain silent.

It’s hard to believe because the African-American homicide rate is quadruple the national average, not as a result of cops killing black people – statistics actually show more whites and Hispanics die from police homicides than blacks – but as a result of black-on-black crime. And no one is kneeling in the streets of our inner cities. In fact, based on data from the Tuskegee Institute, the number of black victims murdered at the hands of other blacks in any given two-year period is comparable to the number of black lynching victims during the entire period of 1882-1968.

It’s hard to believe because of the timing. These players could join in to protest the killing of black lives and police brutality at any time. They’re doing it now because it’s easy and extremely popular to protest Donald Trump among certain crowds (e.g. the media and pop culture).

What is easy to believe is that these NFL protests are nothing more than a protest against the country at large, because these players take the knee during the national anthem.

Robert Tracinski nails it over at The Federalist:

The message is supposed to be “I’m protesting injustice,” but it turns into “I’m protesting injustice, which I equate with America itself.” It is the petulant demand that everyone else fall in line with the protesters’ exact political preferences and their vague political program—I haven’t found anybody who can tell me what concrete measures would convince the knee-takers to stand up again—or else they will refuse to love their own country.

Tracinski goes on to argue that the core of the Left seeks to convey the America-is-irredeemably-evil message — to tear down our constitutional order and remake the country into something fundamentally transformed. So, a great number of those who love America and football are being thoroughly alienated by these protests.  

If these NFL players want their protest against “injustice” to be taken seriously, if they want to find a sympathetic ear from their fellow Americans, then they ought to take a cue from Pittsburg Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva is a former Army Ranger and, in the past 24 hours, his name and gear has become the highest-selling apparel in the NFL.

His jerseys are flying off the shelves because he was the only Steeler standing, hand over heart, during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” while the rest of his team remained in the locker room in protest.

Liberal media outlets like CNN can accuse President Trump (and implicitly his supporters) of having a “dark racial sentiment” behind his criticism of Kaepernick’s kneeling. But if that were true, why has America made a guy named “Alejandro” an overnight sensation (playing the most un-glamorous position of offensive lineman, no less)? Simple: Because this isn’t about race. Americans love people who love America. They vehemently disagree with those who disrespect America, and kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful — even hateful — of America. 

As a military veteran, Villanueva understands that, which is why he warned against Kaepernick’s protests last year.

"I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year," Villanueva told ESPN. "It's his decision. Obviously he has brought up the issue in a great way. But I think if he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it's going to send the wrong message.”

"He has to be a little more careful and look at the big picture of the things that he's doing, because as a service member, I have to understand it. But he's an athlete, he's got a huge platform, he has to see the impact he has on other people's lives," he added.

The kicker? Villanueva actually agrees with Kaepernick’s point about police brutality. 

"I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay," Villanueva said in 2016. "You can't do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country."

Alejandro Villanueva stands with his peers, unmistakably so. On Monday, he even made statements apologizing for unintentionally making his teammates look bad. But he's not the one turning people off and disrespecting the American flag and nation. His colleagues in the NFL, and the echo chamber called "mainstream media," ought to learn from him.

Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.