I have been a Dallas Cowboys’ fan since 1993.
I’ve followed the Cowboys through their ups and downs, their highs and lows, and their 20-year Super Bowl drought. My love for them is deep and I could never imagine a time or a reason why I would ever unfollow them.
Until this past week, with the very real possibility that my love of Dallas Cowboys’ football and my passion for racial equality and calling out injustice by whatever means necessary would clash.
Would the Cowboys kneel? Would they ignore the issue — like they did last season — or would they finally take a stand? And, most importantly, would Jerry Jones let them?
I was so nervous about what they would do that the Monday of the game I cleaned our entire house — every square inch of it. Because I knew if the Cowboys did nothing there would be no way in gay hell I could continue to support them. Because despite what others would have you believe — that the NFL is inconsequential to what’s really going on in the world and is distracting us from the “real” issues — this kneeling shit matters.
As did this person’s sit-in:
As did one woman sitting down on a bus and refusing to move.
As does one NFL quarterback sitting and then kneeling in protest of the many black lives lost at the hands of cops and white supremacy.
But if we’ve learned anything this week it’s that many Americans only support our first amendment right to peaceful protest if it looks a certain way and doesn’t do certain things — like involve our flag or anthem. But many veterans (and their wives) came out in full support of NFL players’ right to protest and kneel whether it was during the national anthem or outside it.
Still others made it about themselves by conflating the protest of racial injustice with a direct attack on our servicemembers and our flag. And once again, we saw a black movement commandeered by white privilege, just like the Black Lives Matter movement becoming an All Lives Matter rallying cry.
But this isn’t about the all. It is about the few that, for far too long, have had their voices and rights negated by all-American prophets selling patriotic falsehoods.
And history has shown us that the easiest way to silence the dissent of any marginalized group is to call into question their patriotism for their country. Remember George W. Bush’s “You’re either with us or your against us” declaration of war on our rights to free speech and assembly? I do. And that’s the exact same black-and-white dichotomous thinking and rhetoric that these American’s policing patriotism are espousing.
But here’s a part of history that they have failed to learn: It was, in fact, one of them, a patriot and former Green Beret, who persuaded Colin Kaepernick to replace his sit-in with a kneel. After Nate Boyer wrote an open letter to the NFL, he and Colin sat down and did what American’s do — they had a dialogue about their differences of perspectives.
During the conversation, Nate told Colin, “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.” Colin was sitting during the anthem for those exact same reasons, to honor all those black lives lost.
After their conversation, he agreed to change his sit-in to a kneel. The two stood on the sidelines together — Colin kneeling and Nate standing — while the national anthem played before a 49-ers game, thus birthing the #TakeaKnee movement we are seeing today.
And wouldn’t real patriots — who are now burning NFL players’ jerseys in protest and demanding Direct TV refund their money — know this? Or at least take the onus on themselves to figure out what the movement actually means and represents before crying fowl?
Obviously not. Obviously, real patriotism requires blind allegiance to the flag of the United States of America without question, inquiry or critical thinking.
But for us to truly make America great again, we need to understand that patriotism and real allegiance to our country requires we the people to be more than just an echo of each other. It requires us to be free.
Free thinkers. Free speakers. Free to exercise our First Amendment rights in any peaceful way we see fit.
But it also requires forgiveness. Yes, Jerry Jones along with other NFL owners like Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots were on the wrong side of history when they donated to Donald Trump’s campaign. And no I don’t believe we should ever forget this. They need to be held accountable for their actions, and we should be just as adamant on demanding answers.
But these are small battles in a larger war. And make no mistake, Donald Trump is the war.
And I would rather link arms and kneel with people who are past enemies than stand alone on principle.
Because here’s the REAL Tea: It’s all connected.
Trump’s ignorance and lack of aid to our Puerto Rican American family is a direct reflection of his ignorance and lack of action on behalf of all American’s who don’t look like him — specifically the black, brown, and trans communities.
And that’s why these NFL protests matter — because they are a small part of a greater whole. That greater whole is the resistance. Our resistance.
Which is why I was so nervous about what the Cowboys would or wouldn’t do. Because they are America’s Team. Because Jerry Jones is a part of the good ol’ boys club. Because the whole world was watching to see what side of the line they would fall on.
And I needed, we needed, America’s Team to reflect and shine the light on the fact that to protest is the very definition of patriotism, and being an American.
We needed the world to see that what’s really unpatriotic is a president of the United States of America calling a fraction of us Americans “sons of bitches.”
And we needed the world to know he is not the kind of America we will stand for.