West

THE ARGUMENT

Should National Football League players be punished for kneeling during the national anthem?

YES

Tom Mountain

Newton resident, Republican State Committee member

Tom Mountain

One can imagine the discomfort that Bob Kraft may have felt when he saw many of his players kneel during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a recent Patriots game.

Yet in my view, Kraft is hardly deserving of sympathy. He and his staff should have seen this coming, but instead of setting the rules with their team on the simple act of respecting the national anthem, they waited until the spectacle of their kneeling players actually took place.

In this, Kraft was no different from other NFL owners who were forced to endure the embarrassment of helplessly watching their players kneel during the national anthem.

Advertisement

Yet all of this could have been prevented. And I believe much of the fault lies with one individual: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

It all started last season, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem. Even if we give Goodell the benefit of the doubt that he disapproved of Kaepernick’s personal protest during an NFL game, he did nothing to stop it.

By allowing Kaepernick to continue kneeling, game after game, without repercussions, it predictably gave other players the green light to follow suit. Goodell could have nipped it in the bud; instead he let it mushroom out of control.

The owners, in turn, having witnessed indifference from their commissioner, had no clue how to deal with the problem when it spread to their teams.

Yet they could have enforced the NFL expectation of standing for the anthem, even though their commissioner chose to ignore it. No doubt, it would have been hard for Kraft to have implicitly rebuked the commissioner by penalizing his own players who took a knee during the anthem, but it would have been admirable had he done so. And the fans would have stood with him.

Advertisement

NFL owners can bench any player who repeatedly refuses to stand for the national anthem. But someone has to take the lead. A team named the Patriots would be a good start.

NO

Jeanne Trubek

Watertown resident, member of Massachusetts Peace Action

Jeanne Trubek

The National Football League players who kneel during the national anthem should definitely not be punished. The players are kneeling in protest of police brutality and racism. Being a football player should not and does not require that you cede your rights as a citizen. Every person in this country has a civil right and a moral responsibility to oppose injustice in our society. Patriotism does not mean turning a blind eye to the problems in our society; patriotism means trying to improve our society, to combat injustice, to work toward the “liberty and justice for all” that we so proudly proclaim in our pledge to the flag.

During the past four years over 1,400 black men and women have been killed by police in the United States, according to the Fatal Encounters database. We have people who have been fatally shot by police after such minor infractions as failing to stop at a stop sign. This is completely unacceptable and must stop. Black men are nearly three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, according to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Rarely are the responsible officers prosecuted for their actions. These are the injustices the football players are protesting, and these issues are what we should be discussing.

Colin Kaepernick began this movement in 2016 when he protested racism and police brutality by sitting on the bench during the national anthem during a preseason game, and at the next game — to show respect for active military members and veterans — taking a knee. His willingness to take a principled position at a significant personal cost in order to bring attention to these issues and bring improvement to his country makes him, and those who have joined him, models to be emulated, not fired.

Our country was founded in protest of injustice. It was not perfect at its beginning and is still not, but each time citizens identify problems and mobilize to remedy them, we improve. The process must never stop. Each member of our society must see it as a responsibility that accompanies being part of this society.

Last week’s argument: Should Newton reduce the size of its City Council to 12 members?

Advertisement

Yes: 63.6% (166 votes)

No: 36.4% (95 votes)

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.