Dave Molter

Column Dave Molter

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

Oh, say, can you knee?

Oh, say, can you knee?

October 1, 2017

Submitted for your approval: On the Saturday following the Crucifixion of Jesus, a group of Jewish rabble-rousers who had witnessed Christ’s trial returned to Pontius Pilate and said, “That ‘crucify him’ thing? We were angry. We’re embarrassed. We’re sorry.”

And thus they moved into the cold, gray dawn of the Twilight Zone.

Former Cecil Township No. 2 fire chief Paul Smith joined them Tuesday, two days after he called Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin “a no good N-----” on Facebook, then made sure no one misconstrued his intentions by concluding the post with, “Yes, I said it.”

Smith’s post was met with public outrage immediately and drew condemnation from township officials Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening, Smith had resigned and made statements to local and national media in which he attempted to explain away his initial post. Among his explanations were “I did not break the law” and “I was frustrated and angry at the Steelers not standing for the anthem.” But not all his explanations make sense.

“I did not break the law.” True. There is no law against stupidity. If there were, most of us would have served more than a few nights behind bars. “I was angry at the Steelers for not standing for the anthem.” Here, his defense yields yardage: the Steelers did stand, albeit only Al Villanueva did so on the field – which he later said was more by accident than by design.

But Smith was not alone in his perception of and anger over the decision by a majority of players, coaches and owners to protest Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 during the playing of our national anthem preceding NFL games. Perhaps many did so only in reaction to President Trump’s attempt earlier in the week to tell the league how to run its business. But Facebook and Twitter users overlooked this possibility and chimed in with their personal takes on the display – and kept chiming, long after the bells’ clappers had disintegrated and dispersed into cyberspace. If social media is guilty of one cardinal sin, it is that the platforms do not encourage rational discourse, but recalcitrance.

I learned in my teenage years you can’t argue with a drunk. Still, I will try.

The sideline protests begun last year by quarterback Colin Kaepernick are about racial inequality in America (notably as reflected in the treatment of people of color by police), not a sign of disrespect for the country’s flag. Nor are they a snub to members of the U.S. military, some of whom died to preserve the freedom to protest – former and active service members have said as much. No one is required to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”– the U.S. Flag Code merely suggests this behavior. But the code does contains specific strictures against displaying the flag horizontally or flat, as it was at Soldier Field during the Steelers-Bears game. The code also states: “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” Yet neither football fans nor the president seem to be offended by the helmet logo of the New England Patriots.

Neither have we heard 24/7 coverage of NFL fans burning jerseys or turning in tickets because some players have committed acts of domestic violence or used banned substances. Overpaid, spoiled athletes have no right to protest in a country that allows them the freedom to make a living by playing a child’s game? Wrong. In the United States, a multi-millionaire athlete has as much right to protest as the person who asks “Paper or plastic?” at the grocery store.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands lie in ruins. Those in range of North Korean missiles may soon be vaporized because of braggadocio on both sides of the ironically named Pacific. Millions of Americans avoided having their health care cut off by a single vote. Yet we become incensed over football. Something is rotten in the States.

We should hold these truths to be self-evident.

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