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Kennedy: Bring attention to a cause, in the right environment

Everybody’s talking about it, but there doesn’t seem to be any agreement on the subject. No, I’m not talking about the weather … or politics. Well, it might be a little political. I’m addressing the recent decision by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on what to do about the players who felt the need to kneel during the national anthem before games last season.

The commissioner recently made an extremely wishy-washy decision on the subject, which pleased no one. He could, and I think should, have declared that all personnel shall stand during the national anthem, or he could have decreed that the players would not come on to the field until after the opening ceremonies, as is the case at most colleges. He did neither.

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In the business world, an employer has the right to limit the non-work-related activities engaged in during the employees’ work day. So in a practical sense, a team owner could declare that kneeling during the national anthem or any other form of protest shall not be allowed before or during games.

I think that all professional athletes should be allowed — nay encouraged — to protest if they feel the need to bring attention to a cause. In fact, all of us should be encouraged to do the same.

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The problem with the NFL players, in my humble opinion, is not the fact that they had a cause to bring attention to, but the when and where they chose to act. During the national anthem, in a stadium, where the patrons paid exorbitant sums to watch them ply their trade, is neither the time nor the place, no matter the cause.

Those of us who live in the 5th legislative district have some serious choices to make in the upcoming primary and general elections. In politics, as in sports, competition is a good thing.

Of course, the original cause behind the protests was co-opted by the president and turned into a sign of disrespect of the nation and the military, which caused an expected negative response by fans, commentators and politicians across America.

With all of that in mind, the time for protest is any time that a wrong is identified. The place, however, should be appropriate. If educational opportunities, lack of facilities and such are the target, then the Board of Education headquarters would be the appropriate place to demonstrate. If perceived police brutality is the cause, then a protest at a precinct station, police headquarters, city hall, or the state house would be appropriate.

Boycotting Starbucks was an appropriate response to the situation in Philadelphia which concerned the use of a restroom and led to the unfortunate arrest of two gentlemen. There are myriad causes which cry out for some sort of protest for the redress of grievances. In most cases, the protest occurs at an appropriate place, one that has to do with the cause. In the case of the NFL players, this was not the case.

Personally I would prefer, and look more positively on, players who would organize protest demonstrations to bring attention to their causes, or lend their voices in support of established groups with the same concerns. These actions would bring more positive attention to the cause and would also place the players in a more favorable light as supporters of the cities in which they play, and in many cases, live year round.

It is every person’s right to demonstrate or protest in support of the change of a real or perceived unjust action, rule, regulation, or law. As is the old saw, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Continuing peaceful and respectful civil demonstrations which lead to civil discourse on the subject at hand will go further than disruptions.

If you have a cause, speak up, write a letter to the editor, or join a group with the same concerns. Make your voice heard. One way to do this is to vote in every election. Your vote does count. Don’t throw away your chance to affect what happens.

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