One of the initial things I learned as a practicing Catholic in the first grade, 71 years ago, was how to genuflect. Dating back to at least, Alexander the Great in fourth Century Persia, the act of taking a knee or sometimes both knees has been a staple act of reverence. It was widely used in the Medieval Church as Catholicism seems to have adapted it from the respect that had been historically used to pay homage to the kings of many countries. Whom better to honor than the King of Kings.
As an aspiring athlete at football camp at Xavier High School in 1960, taking a knee in practice was a way to catch a breath and had no other athletic significance. Today it has played a much more significant role in the politics of sport and perhaps even a small cog in the wheel of a Marxist Revolution.
In 2016 when reserve quarterback for the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Colin Kaepernick, who is black, decided, presumably on his own, to take a knee during the country’s national anthem before an NFL game, it was received by most of the 60,000 fans in attendance as an affront to the American flag and by association, all those brave men and women who have risked their lives in defense of this country. Whether he realized it or not, his bended knee was a blatant insult, especially to those who perished during their service.
By taking a knee, Kaepernick was symbolically saying that he was sitting out or taking a breather from the perfunctory patriot act of respecting the flag that provided him with the freedom to play professional football. His act was allegedly designed as a protest to police brutality in the black communities. Personally I do not see even a thin thread connecting his two dots. If Kaepernick had wanted to protest police behavior, he was perfectly free to do it on his own time and more appropriately, in civilian clothes in front of a police station or even in the park on a soap box. Instead he used his elite position to hold 60,000 people captive, who had paid hundreds of dollars to see a football game and not the Colin Kaepernick Protest Show. If he had worked in any other job, he could have easily been fired on the spot.
How things have changed over the last four years! They reached a crescendo in late May with the callous treatment and gruesome death of George Floyd, a sickly and uncooperative suspect in the custody of four members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Like a wildfire, protests sprung all over the country. Many of them quickly got out of hand as their leaders had, in some situations, become the unwitting pawns of outside agitators.The tragic results were billions of dollars of torched and damaged property, stolen goods and the bankruptcy of hundreds of small businesses, many of which had just reopened after the national shutdown. Most of those affected lived in the poor neighborhoods and could not afford insurance.
From a few fellow athletes who had supported Kaepernick in 2016, it is fair to say that this situation has done a 180. I daresay that in today’s changing climate, not one professional athlete will dare to oppose Kaepernick since he has evolved into some kind of folk hero. While many NFL owners showed their great displeasure four years ago, most, if not all of them, now sense a players’ revolt that could end all hopes of having some type of truncated season this Fall. The Taking a Knee Movement has garnered such great momentum that it has spread to virtually all professional franchises in most sports here and even in Europe. It has also been evident on hundreds of college campuses, enveloping virtually all their sports teams and have filtered down to thousands of the country’s high schools.
This has all been accomplished under the ambiguous banner of Black Lives Matter. It has quickly gone from a simple protest to a revolutionary movement that when coupled with the still deadly Corona virus, threatens all televised sports in America, and more importantly our democratic traditions. It has evolved to the point that like most ideas with a liberal or progressive bent, after a certain amount of success, will not tolerate any dissent, as white star quarterback, Drew Brees, quickly learned. When asked by members of the media what he thought about taking a knee, the once highly-respected team leader of the New Orleans Saints fumbled the ball big time.
As a quarterback, Brees is best known for making split-second decisions under serious pressure, on where and to whom he should pass the football. In front of the media, he unwisely created his own Hobsonian Choice that guaranteed either of two results and both of them were bad for him. To answer as he did and that was to honestly say he disagreed with their actions because he fondly remembered how his two grandfathers, who were not police officers, had risked their lives in World War II to fight for this country. He should not have been surprised that his patriotic answer had unwittingly unleashed a firestorm of invective directed at him. Other white quarterbacks, like Atlanta’s Matthew Ryan quickly got that message.
Brees was summarily taken to re-education camp for his comments that he later walked back as being insensitive. As the team leader he risked a great deal by talking to the press about his own love of the flag, so I think his final professional season as the team’s undisputed leader would have taken a broadside across his bow had he continued to stand up for the flag instead of taking a knee. I seriously doubt his mates would have followed him or even fully protected him during a game. His only honorable option would have been to retire on the spot. It still remains to be seen how much respect he has already lost, despite his supplicant apologies to critics, not only in New Orleans but around his league and even in other sports.
Either way sports columnists will never let him forget his wandering from the herd mentality. His immediate entry into the Hall of Fame in five or six years is now probably in jeopardy, not to mention the loss of millions in endorsements. Whenever the newspapers have to write his obituary, his initial public dissent will be part of his otherwise outstanding legacy. In retrospect, I hope Brees realizes that he should have taken a knee for the media and had refused to answer.
The Kaepernick Revolution also threatens our political structure as well. Universities are mobilizing thousands of their athletes in partisan voter registration drives. Despite all that President Trump has tried to do for poor black families in income, job opportunities and police reform, they will more than likely vote for Joe Biden.
Their slogan Black Lives Matter appears to be singular and racially divisive. I could easily accept it if it read Black Lives Matter Too. Their alternate slogan of No Justice, No Peace is an inflammatory threat, directed to all communities and a formula for anarchy. They never define the word, Justice, so essentially it means whatever their leaders want. History shows that all violent revolutionary movements are fueled by hatred, prejudice and violence. This ugly trio seems to be standing tall at this stage.
Many urban mayors have prevented their police forces from protecting the common good and commercial property. With shades of Roman Emperor Nero, they knelt while their cities burned. All of their fulminations against breech of their virus shutdown rules were thrown in the trash can to accommodate the mobs that threatened their cities. This is not to mention how these mayors’ irresponsible support will result in many more Corona Virus infections.
In Crisis Magazine, a Catholic publication, I read about several priests and bishops who seemingly are having an identity crisis. After lecturing us about the dangers to the common good that Mass attendance and reception of the sacraments could cause, many saw no harm in joining these undisciplined crowds in protests that in most cases flaunted the safety masks and social distancing. The article raised the question of priorities. Some bishops and priests see their duty more in the streets than in the Confessional or behind the altar.
I believe most Catholics believe the first responsibility of the clergy is to minister to their parish flocks, many of whom have not been inside a church or received the sacraments in several months. Critics want to know if their prelates are social workers or dedicated to saving souls. Priests are not the only ones who see a higher purpose in protesting rather than doing their chosen jobs as many professional athletes would rather genuflect than hit, shoot baskets or kick a soccer ball.
Josef Stalin once said that one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic. The brutal Stalin was correct. Deaths like George Floyd’s are tragedies but is this any reason to dismiss or ignore the thousands of black youths who have been killed in their own neighborhoods by gangs and drug dealers? Then there are the abortion mills. Of the of the roughly one millions unborn lives taken annually in their abattoirs around the country, approximately 330,000 are black babies. Do these black lives not matter or is their slogan just meaningless words to incite a violent revolution in this country?
If All Black Lives Matter is not just a hollow slogan, then protesters should all turn their banners to the real problems of the inner cities and the sanctity of all unborn black lives and take two knees and pray for the end of both urban and womb brutality. That would be a protest we could all peacefully kneel behind.