If there was any NFL player that you would think would be in favor of the flag protests, it would be Jim Brown. The Cleveland Browns legend was a civil rights icon and an African-American activist during and after his professional career.
However, that’s part of the reason why Brown says he’s against the protests. He believes it’s time to make America a better country, not just make empty gestures.
Brown was interviewed before the premiere of NFL Network’s “Hard Knocks,” a documentary show about NFL training camp. Each year, the network picks a particular team to follow behind the scenes — and this year, it’s the Cleveland Browns, who were 0-16 last year.
So, what does Jim Brown think about these protests?
“I’ll never kneel and I will always respect the flag,” Brown said, according to Fox News.
And, he had nothing but scorn for the athletes who let their gestures speak louder than their actions.
“I am not going to denigrate my flag and I’m going to stand for the national anthem,” he said.
“I’m fighting with all of my strength to make it a better country, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Because what is the top side? Are you not going to stand up? This is our country, man.
“We work hard to make it better and that’s my attitude, so I don’t relate to this issue because it’s newsworthy because where are your superstars? And where are they at? Aren’t they making comments?”
Brown said while he thought the players ought to stand, he didn’t think the league should force them to.
“I’LL NEVER KNEEL.” -Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown takes a stand against anthem protests pic.twitter.com/cEqwbiPyzg
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 8, 2018
“Well, if you take the bottom line, what are we talking about? We’re talking about freedom to express one’s self, and if you don’t break any rules then you have that particular right,” he said.
Of course, the league is likely enacting a rule that stipulates players need to stand if they’re out on the field, but never mind that. The point Brown was making is that these generally aren’t superstars doing this and that they should look toward making their country better, not just take a knee and move on.
There is a very low entrance cost for those who wish to draw attention to their formless cause via taking a knee for the national anthem. There may be a high social cost, mind you, in terms of the censure they receive from the fans (this is mitigated by the fact that the media routinely run damage control for them, mind you.) However, for an athlete to be seen as “aware” or (ugh) “woke” in the Age of Trump, the easiest way to do it is simply to protest the anthem.
It’s one thing for me, a conservative writer, to say these things. It’s another for an African-American civil rights icon to say it — especially since most of the grievances perceived by the protesters (inasmuch as they’ve been expressed) are based around allegations of racial injustice. This is a guy who’s done far more for his cause or civil rights in our country in a single day than any of these players have done in their entire career. He’s well aware that disrespecting the United States isn’t the way to change hearts or minds.
Will the protesters take Jim Brown’s advice? One would hope they do. The NFL can ill afford another year of cultural warfare where respect for our flag is the ultimate victim.
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