Fabiola Santiago

NFL rules against freedom on field, when there’s nothing more American than protest

It’s not "compromise," NFL owners, when you vote to keep players hidden from view in the locker room because they want to kneel during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice in America.

It's censorship.

You failed to teach the nation a lesson in democracy.

There's nothing more American than the right to protest. That right, and due process in our judicial system, are the pillars that set us apart from dictatorships. They're what make this country truly great and admired around the world.

Too bad you bought into the Trumpian line that kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem is disrespectful and unpatriotic. It isn't. In fact, it is a solemn, respectful way to show that you stand for the highest of values, that of human life.

Let's not forget that all this started because of what was becoming an epidemic in the United States: unarmed black men dying at the hands of police officers in questionable circumstances.

The NFL players' protest of taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, led by Colin Kaepernick and replicated by teams around the nation, brought long overdue attention to the issue. It placed it right where it needed to be, in our family room, in front of our faces during America's pastime, football.

I celebrate them.

You should have, too, and let those players who feel they need to kneel remain doing so. How refreshing it is to see sports men caring deeply enough about social issues that they put their jobs on the line. Keeping them in the locker room only adds to the ugly.

0598 DOLPHINS VS. PATRIOTS 091916.JPG
Miami Dolphins Aaron Foster (29), wide receiver Kenny Stills (10) and free safety Michael Thomas (31) take a knee during the National Anthem before the game as the New England Patriots host the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. Al Diaz adiaz@miamiherald.com

It's not an exaggeration to say it reminds me of an ugly past when African Americans were sent to the back of the bus.

In announcing the new policy approved Wednesday, NFL spokeswoman Judy Battista said that "anthem policy is compromise."

"If players are on sideline, will stand. But players may choose to stay in the locker room if they prefer not to stand.”

But I hope our Miami Dolphins reject it, as team owners will have the power to set their own policies.

Sending the kneeling players to the locker room isn't compromise.

It's cowardice. It's shortsightedness. It's lack of sensitivity to past and current racial sins, as those being left in the locker room are mostly black players.

It's catering to a part of America that has become blind to what we're losing when violation of principle becomes a way of governing, when we take away people's right to protest peacefully, as in this case, by respectfully taking a knee.

Follow me on Twitter @fabiolasantiago
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