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To the athletes, coaches, sports business professionals and others who want to kneel during our national anthem: Just stand up.

There is a time and a place for protest; a sporting event, during the national anthem, is not it. Common sense is needed here. You don't go to Arby's for a political statement — you go to Arby's for a roast beef sandwich. Countless Americans, worn out from a hard week of work and looking for something enjoyable, something of which they can be a part, something to which they have contributed money — both in taxes for stadiums and voluntarily for tickets, apparel, refreshments, television packages, and on and on — want to see a good game, not political protest. They can turn on the news, open up a paper or visit Facebook for politics.

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For those who currently play on the field: We recognize your right to free speech; we just want you to do it at a respectful time and place. If you truly believe that America is as corrupt and horrible as you insist, then you would be standing up for the national anthem, as the anthem and our flag are physical representations of the very best of the American idea — an idea to which all Americans aspire. When it comes to American idealism, you do not aspire by sitting down.

And besides, we know athletes are already in a unique position to sit down and protest off the field. They have a kind of exposure and command of audience that average Americans do not have. They can appear anywhere, on any network on television or online, in any medium, anytime they want to talk about anything they want. They also have social media.

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America — and we Americans who give up our hard-earned money in support of these athletes — have given them that unique opportunity. Yes, we know sports are not easy. But understand that we also work hard, long hours to earn our pay. We don't fault you for your success. All we want from you, besides a good game, is a little respect for the country we call home. You see, sports have the capacity to unite Americans in ways that few other things can. There are no qualifications for being a sports fan. You simply become one. That's it.

But things are clearly not so simple, or so logical when it comes to the anthem controversy debate. How is it that tributes worn by football players to Sept. 11, police officers and in memoriam of a mother dead from cancer are unacceptable to the NFL, but kneeling during the national anthem is? How is it that so many went from being intensely pro-American when it came to Confederate statues a few weeks ago to protesting during the American national anthem? How is it the players have a right to free speech, but not our president?

When these things happen or are said, it strikes us as disingenuous. We cannot raise up different standards in selective convenience. We either all hold ourselves up to the same expectations and requirements, or we cannot expect others to do the same — nor do we have the right to criticize them if they do not. This is why common sense, decency, standards and honor matter. These things go hand-in-hand. They form human character. Human character informs our choices and our decision-making in how we approach any given situation.

But few people are talking about these things. Rather, there are some who are blaming this entire controversy on President Donald Trump alone — and are faulting him for not saying more about Puerto Rico. To be fair, it was Colin Kaepernick who first took a knee. The NFL controversy is not the only thing President Trump has spoken about recently — but it is the one thing the media seems obsessed to grabbing onto.

But why does this matter so much to average Americans when we are also faced with North Korean's antagonism and a number of national and international natural disasters? Because this is so simple. Because it cuts to our core as Americans. Because something we could once rely on to always be a gathering place for every American, suddenly no longer is. Because the very fundamental, respectful and easily observed customs of American patriotism — standing during our national anthem — have been effectively mauled by millionaire athletes being goaded by some on the political left.

This isn't about forcing athletes to stand and salute — it's simply expecting better of the people we look up to and having the right to disagree with their choices. It's about honoring others we look up to, such as military veterans and police officers. Recent polls on the subject of the anthem protests show that more than 70 percent of Americans oppose them. These are not party-line opinions. This is common decency and American character in action. Most of us may not wear uniforms of service, but we choose to stand up for those who do. Just as a protester negates his cause when he throws a flaming bottle through a store window, so, too, do these athlete protesters destroy the potential of conversation when they choose to kneel.

So the solution for all Americans who dislike what has happened with the sporting world is simple: Don't spend your money on the NFL and people who have everything. Donate your money to Florida, to Puerto Rico, and to people elsewhere who have lost everything. That's the most American thing we can do right now.

Joe Vigliotti is a writer and a Taneytown city councilman. He can be reached through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.

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