Imagine a country where football players kneeling on the sideline peacefully protesting inequalities in their country are labelled “unpatriotic,” “treasonous” and “sons of bitches” by the president of the country, while citizens who violently storm the nation’s Capitol and break into the House Chamber in an attempt to stop the certification of a presidential election are deemed “patriots,” “peaceful people,” “special” and “normal tourists” by the president and some members of Congress.
That isn’t the plot of some apocalyptic novel; it’s where the United States is as a country in January 2022.
In an interview on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures show, Donald Trump, the former president and commander-in-chief, called those who attacked the Capitol “peaceful people” and “patriots” in a truly shocking diatribe.
Rep. Paul Gosar has called the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol rioters “peaceful patriots.”
And Rep. Andrew Clyde said “If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
How can any rational person who saw the videos of what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, label the perpetrators as peaceful, patriotic or tourists?
What we all saw – no matter our political persuasion – was a mob trying to violently and unlawfully halt a democratic process.
And what we saw in videos of Colin Kaepernick quietly and peacefully kneeling during the national anthem before football games was a young man who believed the country wasn’t living up to its ideals. Nobody got hurt.
Like Kaepernick or not, agree with his positions or not, the fact is that the American Constitution and democratic processes weren’t threatened by his actions. Yet, a lot of people remain more upset with Kaepernick than they are with the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
The United States is a nation that’s turned upside down.
Just to be clear, I’m not one who condoned the violent protests and looting that followed the police killing of George Floyd. Those involved in those violent and destructive acts should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Peaceful protests are an important part of American history, its values and its Bill of Rights. If thousands of Trump supporters had gathered in Washington, D.C., and peacefully protested in front of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, I would’ve fully supported their right to do so.
But that’s clearly not what happened on Jan. 6, and the fact that some people – most disturbingly our former president and some members of Congress – continue to spin it as such is not only disappointing and sad but downright scary.
And what’s terrifying is that a large number of Americans have bought that spin, ignored what their eyes showed them on Jan. 6, and subscribed to various conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election.
If we can’t get to the point where a huge majority of Americans unequivocally denounce what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, we have big problems.
Much, much bigger problems than whether Kaepernick was wrong for kneeling during the American anthem at a football game.
Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans (leagueoffans.org), a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports. For interview requests, click here.
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