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Emerald’s Gem Box: Go kneel by the grave of a soldier

More than 200 NFL players sat or knelt, this past weekend, during the playing of the National Anthem. Some teams stayed in the locker room and didn’t even come out on the field, to show their respect for our country. All of this started last year when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem, in “protest of police treatment of minorities.”  (However, it is funny that one of the current big headline stories, continually, is that of Kaepernick's continued unemployment status.)

Many of the players have said they knelt in defiance of President Trump’s speech wherein he asked the crowd ‘wouldn’t they like to see the owners of the NFL teams fire anyone who disrespects our flag?’  The response from the crowd was unanimous.  They roared in agreement; meaning there were thousands that felt the exact same way as what the President was saying.  The crowd wasn’t in agreement just because they were “Trump supporters;” but because they love this country and what the American Flag symbolizes to the great men and women of this country.

The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team remained in the locker room during the national anthem, with the exception of one player: Alejandro Villanueva.  Villanueva is an Army veteran who plays offensive tackle for the Steelers.  He served three tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, for rescuing wounded soldiers.  Serving as their platoon leader, he carried three men to safety, one of whom later died.

Sunday, Villanueva stood at the entrance of the tunnel holding his helmet in his left hand and holding his right hand over his heart as the anthem played.

During a previous interview, he had been quoted as saying he understood protesting racial inequality in America, but disrespecting the flag and the people who serve our country isn’t the most effective way to do so.  One has to wonder what went through his mind Sunday, about his teammates, who refused to show honor and respect to the symbol for which he fought and watched his friends die.

Fans took notice of his respectfulness, however. The sales of his #78 jersey have skyrocketed on the website.  In fact, his jersey is now the highest-seller among the Pittsburgh Steelers’ jerseys and also rocketed into the top sellers in the entire league, as of Sunday night. (Add this fact to the actuality that Kaepernick is still unemployed and we have the true meaning to Karma!)

Then… to my dismay Villanueva holds a press conference on Monday and APOLOGIZES! What???

He said, “Every single time I see that picture of me, standing by myself, I feel embarrassed. It was a very embarrassing part on my end," he added. "When everyone sees an image of me standing by myself, everybody thinks the team and the Steelers are not behind me, and that is absolutely wrong. It's quite the opposite.”

During his interview, he explained that the Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, had “advised” the team that whatever they decided to do they needed to do it all as one and 100 percent together.  Since there was a disagreement on what they would do, it was decided to stay inside the tunnel/locker room and remove themselves from the entire situation. However, Villanueva asked if he could “stand in the tunnel and watch the National Anthem to accommodate this tough moral dilemma that I had in my hands.” He was told yes by teammates and his coach!  And so, he did! And now, is apologizing for the way it looked.  What a sad day! Is he feeling the pressure of the NFL to apologize?  Is he feeling pressure from his coach to apologize? Why would he EVER be “embarrassed” by a picture of him saluting the flag that he fought under and say the words, “Unwillingly I made a mistake.”

For the citizens that scream ‘they have a right to kneel,’ millions more can scream in a (louder) way that hurts the pockets of the players, coaches, and owners; pockets that run deep and is all that most of them care about anyway.

Our stock market is at an all-time high, since President Trump took office, but yet the stocks of the companies that broadcast NFL games are all down.  The NFL ratings have fallen; attendance is down at NFL games; Sunday night football viewership is down at least 13%; and ESPN continues to lay off employees because of its low ratings.

These “men” are kneeling in protest over minority issues and a variety of other controversies.  Yet, how many of them are actually doing something to make America better?  Kneeling isn’t making America great.  Kneeling isn’t helping the minorities.  Kneeling isn’t helping feed the hungry children in our communities.  These “great heroic men” are multi-millionaires and could be making a huge difference in our communities.  Instead, they are teaching our eight-year-olds to kneel and hate America.  These black multi-millionaires are screaming about minority injustice instead of becoming motivational speakers that teach minorities (and every race/sex) that you can become anything you put your mind to. How many of these multi-millionaire “let’s make a point” men have ever put their money to good use in a minority community?  How many have spent just a few thousand, of their millions, to build a playground for the “underprivileged” that they are kneeling for?  How many have gone to their local county commission meetings or school board meetings in order to help make a difference in their hometowns?

They want to kneel?  They need to go kneel by the grave of a soldier, with his widow and children, or go kneel in front of a man who’s lost his limbs fighting in a war for this country. Maybe then they might stand up and do something positive to help make America great again. Instead of holding hands and kneeling together why don’t they stand up and pool some of their tens of millions of dollars together and do something positive for this country that they say has such social injustices.

I heard someone say once, “When someone does something wrong, that he has a legal right to do, that is precisely when society’s role begins.”

Think about that!

I have the “right” to sit in a restaurant and say mean, ugly things to the waitress.  I have the “right” to send back every order as wrong and want a new one cooked.

They also have a right to kick me out of the restaurant.

Freedom works both ways!

I end this column with a big “Thank You” to all of our veterans, and to the men and women who are currently serving in our military. If it were not for the wars of “yesteryear,” the soldiers who fought in them, and our current military men and women, we would not live in the greatest country in the world.  America is not ALL that we desire it to be … but it is still the greatest country in the world, by far. Show respect for that!

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