Tom Sorensen

What’s the best response to players’ anthem protests? Roger Goodell needs to know.

New Carolina Panther receiver Torrey Smith talked Monday about taking a knee during the national anthem from a player’s perspective, and he absolutely got it right.

This feels ancient now. But when NFL players take a knee, they aren’t kneeling because they are anti-military and they aren’t kneeling because they are anti-police. They live in the same world we do, and they see inequality.

By now you’ve seen the video of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Sterling Brown being tased by Milwaukee police officers for, essentially, being 6-foot-6, 23 years old and black. Milwaukee’s police chief apologized.

Would the apology have been issued if Brown cut hair, tended bar or sold real estate?

Athletes have a platform and can use their celebrity to nonviolently call attention to the issues that confront them.

That’s it. That’s all.

I bought breakfast for a police officer, or tried. When he was looking at the food, I went to the barista and asked him to put the officer’s bill on my tab. But the donut stuff apparently is myth. The officer ordered only coffee.

Yet he walked to my table and thanked me profusely. I told him he had it wrong, and I thanked him. Neat guy, as most of the people I know in the department are.

Supporting those that chose to take a knee is no more anti-cop, anti-military or anti-American than taking a knee is.

I have no idea what the NFL is doing. The more commissioner Roger Goodell speaks, the more I wish NBA commissioner Adam Silver had a clone so he could run football, too.

The NBA features outspoken coaches, coaches that, like other human beings, have an opinion. They are allowed to offer these opinions. So are players. They don’t take a knee because they don’t feel as if they have to. They are respected by the people for whom they work, and are free to offer an opinion.

Without consulting with the NFLPA, the commissioner declared that players that didn’t want to stand for the anthem could stay in the locker room. That’s like sending a kid to his room because dad worries about what the kid will say in front of the guests.

The athletes aren’t kids. They are adults, and their form of protest is, or ought to be, quiet. They’re not the ones yelling.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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