Dear men’s and women’s basketball team,
I'm still cheering for you. I'm still going to stand in the bleachers, jump up and down, clap when you score, and rejoice with you in your victories. Being an athlete, I can relate to the thrill of playing a sport you love. But more than being fellow athletes, you are primarily my brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, I am appealing for not only you, but also the overall community, to please hear me out.
My dad is in the Navy, and I take pride in the sacrifices he has made daily for the past twenty-five years. I've said goodbye to him, not knowing where he’s going on a four month deployment. Then there came the eight month deployment that extended into nine months.
I admit I am offended by the recent actions towards our nation’s flag and anthem, the flag my father and countless other servicemen and women have fought to preserve. Many veterans and active duty military members don't even have the physical ability to kneel, so the least we can do is stand in honor of them and the many who have died. When I observe someone kneeling during the national anthem, I am not wondering about their reasons. I confess that instead, I am distracted by thinking they are insensitive to those who provided that flag for them to even look at.
These are feelings I've had to wrestle with this past week and please know I am confident you are not intentionally disrespecting the military. However, your actions can be perceived as very offensive. While you are trying to support those offended by racial injustice, you are simultaneously offending the military. This makes your protesting counterproductive.
What are you achieving? Can we not find a middle ground to recognize both parties? While Mark 12:31 calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself”, John 14:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” So many military servicemen and women have literally laid down their lives to protect this country. How are we loving our brothers and sisters in the military by disrespecting them, even if it's unintentional?
I believe God has created us all in His image and that none of us are more important than others; however, as far as I know, I’m not signing a draft anytime soon. I’m not boarding a ship for a deployment and leaving my family behind. I’m not risking my life for my country. But what I am doing is respecting those who have earned those freedoms for me to practice back home here in America.
In a recent all-athletic meeting about this very topic, the speaker encouraged us to empathize with those experiencing oppression and try to understand where they’re coming from. I believe this does not mean we overlook empathizing with the families of our fallen military.
Recently, Dr. Madueme gave a presentation in the chapel series “Dangerous Ideas.” Near the end of his lecture, he said we should be developing new traditions, actions that set us apart as an institution representing Christ. While Dr. Madueme was not referring to politics, I believe his statement should be applied in all areas of our lives. Naturally, I think kneeling during the national anthem is jumping on a bandwagon of what other sports teams and colleges are doing. How does this make us different? What if we challenged ourselves to develop new ways of approaching this hot topic?
As a tennis player who forfeited the conference tournament last semester due to our Sabbath policy, I can attest firsthand to being the product of a “dangerous idea.” In light of this event, I appeal to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to challenge yourselves by acting on a “dangerous idea.” Achieve a balance in this form of protest. You can honor those suffering from racial injustice while still respecting all of our armed forces, their families, and those whom have died in combat defending our imperfect, but still great, nation.