Respect me if you want me to respect YOUR protest

A former graduate school classmate posted an article from the Chicago Tribune yesterday, “Why do whites oppose the NFL protests?” He’s a successful author, activist and President/CEO at Kairos Moment. He was a “privileged” Black man when we met in college decades ago. He has since used his gifts to help others. I was a “privileged” White male. Similarly, I have tried to use my blessings to help create a better world. We have a common history and share many values. On the topic of kneeling during the national anthem, we hold opposing views.


I wrote on his Facebook page: 

I wish we could have an intelligent, civil discussion on this topic. From the article, “Last year, a Reuters poll found that 63 percent of whites disapproved of NFL players kneeling during the anthem — compared with 17 percent of blacks.”

First, I’m not “white.” White is a color and I’m certainly not white. I’m peach or tan. If you want to categorize me, as we do with groups such as Hispanics, we capitalize. I would be part of the White group. You might be Black. Intelligent, civil people understand what I am saying. Words matter!

Second, I do not support protests at athletic events. The court, field or pitch is my sacred space. It’s my church. If I invite you to my home for Thanksgiving dinner and you want to spend the time arguing about abortion, I’m going to ask you to leave. There are times when Friends, Family and Fun are more important than your political issue.

Third, because I do not support protests at my sacred places, many in society call me a RACIST. I’m not racist and I don’t appreciate being Race-Shamed for observing MY First Amendment right — NOT to engage in politics all the time, 24/7 of my f_cking life.

Fourth, Black folks must do what they believe they must, but as a White dude, I don’t KNEEL to anyone. I consider kneeling to be a sign of submission and weakness. Now, you are free in this country to protest as you wish. Kneel if you want; stand if you want; riot if you want. I simply consider kneeling to be weak.

As a White male, I don’t believe in kneeling to anyone!

Fifth, I thought the high school students from Parkland, FL did a better job protesting than did the Black athletes. The students didn’t kneel. They stood; they rallied; they marched; and they captured the attention of the nation and leaders.

Sixth, kneeling during the anthem is confusing. CK’s initial remarks:
“I’m not going to stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppressed Black people and People of Color.”

He was clear — he had NO PRIDE in the flag. If you believe you need to debate this with me, you prove CK failed to be clear about his intent.

Finally, Black people are FREE to protest as they like. But if you want me, a White person, to join or support you, then you must respect my objections. Falsely accusing me of racism does not win Hearts & Minds. In fact, it hardens my soul against your action.

I believe I speak for millions of White people. Hear and respect us if you want to be successful in your protest. It’s an important issue.

Ivan Baccarat responded:

I too am white but while I agree with some of what you’ve said I don’t agree with everything. I personally think that as white folk we could suck it up and take in what our fellow citizens of color are trying to say. After all how long is the anthem? 1 minute? And the game is almost 4 hours? I personally am gutted and horrified by seeing unarmed black folk shot and jailed and incarcerated at astronomically higher numbers than us and for us to complain about a 1 minute kneel down about something that’s been going on for a helluva lot longer than a few decades is lame. I say this with respect to your opinion.

We had an interesting conversation. My response to Mr. Baccarat:

I agree with much of what you say as well. My objection is this. You may approve of this protest, but what if another group feels the need to protest as well? What about another and another and another? We can’t simply say it’s OK for Black athletes to protest, but not gays, abortion-foes, anti-war activists, etc. Once we open the door, ALL groups must be allowed equal opportunity. Then, sports become a platform to protest any and all social disputes.

I agree with you about Black Americans and criminal justice. I am willing to march in streets; I’m willing to stand before police stations; I am willing to flood legislative bodies with protest. It’s not the cause; it’s the venue.

For me and millions, we want sport to be about sport — not the flavored political campaign of the moment.

If White athletes kneeled in opposition to something during the anthem, I would equally be upset about their choice of venue. This isn’t racism. It’s my PROTEST for the RIGHT not to be politically-spammed all the time.

Appreciate your respectful conversation!

Mr. Baccarat wrote:

I’ll take one protest at a time and consider what they’re saying. I wouldn’t say football has become a platform to protest simply from a 1 minute kneel down. The owners compounded the situation by unilaterally making a new rule and not working the players association and asking what would address their needs while also addressing the needs of some their customers.

My response:

As an American, that’s your guaranteed right. This is what the flag, our fallen heroes, and Constitution offer all of us. Today, you support the protest. Tomorrow, you may not. This is what I’m saying. Protests divide us. Life divides us.

We adore sports because they UNITE us. When my father played basketball for the University of Southern Mississippi in the late 1950s, Black athletes could not compete. Racism dominated athletics. Yet the Power of Athletics defeated racism. Black athletes today dominate most sports in America.

We cherish the Olympics because they can bring nations at war together — North and South Korea — for example.

Currently I train with athletes from Hiroshima, Japan. My ancestors vaporized their ancestors with nuclear bombs. Today, our generation finds commonality as we seek to be better athletes and more compassionate human beings.

Making friends with women athletes from Hiroshima, Japan

For a couple short hours each week, sports unite us behind OUR team, as we boo THEIR team in friendly competition. After it’s all over, we drink a beer or grab a burger together, laugh, share memories, and prepare for a divisive, challenging week.

I’m an athlete, a former professional. I’ve traveled this nation and the world to compete and bring people together. I earned a silver medal in the Olympics — coaching a Chinese women’s team.

Coaching with the 1996 Chinese Women’s Volleyball team: Silver medalists

Consider that miracle!!! I’m a White America Male who assisted Communist Chinese Women to beat my home nation. This is the beauty of sport. I respect your right to protest, but will forever defend my “church” against divisive politics.

Who you pulling for in World Cup?

Mr. Baccarat:

The question is are we really united when there is a huge discrepancy of fairness and justice in our country? When you or I get pulled over by the police we have a completely different experience than our fellow citizens of color. And we’ve been having a different experience for a long time so we should be able to examine what these athletes are protesting (and taking a risk doing it) and not complain about it ruining our fun time with football. After all it is only for 1 minute or so. And I truly believe that if we acknowledge what it is they’re kneeling for and they feel heard that they wouldn’t feel the need to do it anymore. They just want to be heard. Having said that, congrats to you and your coaching success, that’s amazing. As for the World Cup I’m an ugly American in that I don’t give a s**t about soccer… unless my daughter is playing that is…

My response:

You’re a brilliant guy and I respect you. Are we united? I certainly don’t believe that. I would say we’re an extremely divided nation, and in part, this is why sports are so important. A fan puts on their NE Patriots hat or shirt and feels commonality with millions around the nation. They share in the Golden State victory or the loss by the Cavs. It’s an illusion of unity — but grounds us a bit in a nation of 325 million. Maybe it’s a fundamental tribalism of sorts.

Through sport we escape the lack of fairness and justice in our nation, as we watch a dozen officials review the tape of a fumble or foul — to get it right. Life isn’t fair. Rarely do people get justice. Yet we get a semblance of fairness between the lines of sport.

I live in Hawai’i. Whites are called haoles. This is similar to the N-word. Whites are minorities here. My wife is from New Mexico. Whites are minorities there. I know exactly how Black Americans feel. I don’t like being treated this way. I don’t want People of Color to be treated like this.

I believe my experience as a White minority helps me to “empathize” with others. I want justice for them, for you and for me. I am united with you in this regard.

Where I differ from you and others is my reverence for the “chapel” of sport. I’ll march with you anywhere and anytime. I ask ONLY that it’s not the arena. To this point, we’re spending more energy discussing the appropriateness of the venue and protest and little solving the problem — and, it’s a tragic situation. You and I agree!

This is MY only request. Let me have one HAPPY place in this f’ed up, disgusting world. This allows me to cope with the frustrations of life. For those who believe they must take this from me, I will not join you or support your cause. In fact, I will actively oppose you. I want ONE happy place in my world.

Appreciate your civil and thoughtful comments!

Mr. Baccarat answered:

I hear everything you say and don’t disagree with your feelings. I just feel it’s 1 minute of our time and not the whole game. We as citizens of this amazing country could suck it up and just let them be.

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