Support anthem protests, but keep focus on issues

Don’t be distracted by President Trump’s despicable attacks on NFL players exercising their rights as Americans.

PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s attack on the rights of NFL players to express themselves politically was despicable.

It was heartening to see the strong, unified response from the Seattle Seahawks and all levels of the NFL, including owners.

Yet Americans must stay focused on the Trump administration’s more troubling actions.

Intentionally or not, Trump created a huge distraction by picking a fight over protests by a handful of NFL players. He did this as the Senate’s latest effort to kill Obamacare is in doubt and as troubling reports emerged that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was using private email for White House business.

Trump won the presidency in part by harping incessantly on Hillary Clinton for using her private email when she was in the Obama administration.

The revelation of the Trump administration’s email hypocrisy was buried inside newspapers as the fire hose of national outrage was pointed at Trump’s unnecessary, polarizing spat with the NFL.

Trump’s attack, which he continued on Twitter, greatly magnified the scale and impact of the protests, which are rooted in disparities in policing and justice for African Americans. Protesters do not believe this is the land of the free for everyone, and they are invoking the power of our anthem in a righteous cause.

Of course NFL players have the right to protest. The football league is a private organization that supports its players’ decisions to express their political views. Their statements do not interfere with their job or the game.

Their method of protest — kneeling or staying in locker rooms as the national anthem plays before games — is offensive to some. The flag and anthem are revered and respecting them is a way to show respect for those who sacrificed to defend the country. This perspective is also valued.

But patriotic Americans should be most offended by a commander in chief demanding that citizens perform loyalty rituals and threatening them for peaceful protest. This country declared itself free from tyranny in 1776.

The United States and its symbols are strong and resilient enough to have professional athletes raise important questions in provocative ways. It makes the country better to have the conversations they prompted.

At the same time, Americans must not lose sight of…

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