For the past two seasons, I’ve had to consider what I would have done had I been on the sidelines still dressed in green and white. And today, yet again the question remains, would I kneel?
I think I’ve always been reluctant to do things outside of my comfort zone. When I’ve looked at issues in the past to support, if the issue did not directly affect me or my family or if the potential backlash seemed too daunting, I would tend to avoid the issue. But at what point does the struggle of another human being begin to trump my own comforts? When is my inactivity no longer an acceptable response?
As I watched the entire New York Jets organization during the 2017 season lock arms in solidarity on the sidelines before facing the Dolphins. I was at home, retired, detached from those who were in the midst of the fight. I was filled with a mixture of emotions that I couldn’t make sense of, unsure of the right course of action to be taken. The act of kneeling was never intended to disrespect our military, but rather bring awareness of the alarming incidences of police brutality and social injustice in our country, but what did kneeling mean at this point? Was kneeling now just an objection to President Trump’s inflammatory remarks? Why was it now being perceived as a slight against the armed forces? Or if a player stood, did that mean he was indifferent to those suffering injustice in our society?
I do appreciate the players that have demonstrated their beliefs through action, even when my own was hard to see. In last year’s November issue of GQ magazine, I read something that Eric Reid said that really caused me to pause and think about how I am honestly living out my faith. “The Bible talks very explicitly in Proverbs about being the voice of the voiceless and speaking up for the vulnerable. Another verse is: ‘Faith without works is dead.’ I guess selfishly I’m trying to get to heaven.” When I read this, I felt convicted. As a believer, I knew that I could never say that this was an issue that I wasn’t called to be involved in. I knew that Eric was justified in echoing those words expressed in Proverbs and in the book of James. The issue of kneeling had forced a conversation about social justice that perhaps I wasn’t ready to have with myself. That I hadn’t spoken up.
As I wrestled with my own thoughts, I watched as players mobilized into action. The Players Coalition, a diverse group of NFL players, committed to pushing the conversations with owners to tangible results, one that will lead to almost $90 million in financial support to grass-roots organizations over a seven-year period. Members of the coalition have advocated for legislation and have helped to bring various issues of social responsibility into the forefront.
But have issues of social justice been addressed sufficiently to the point where it is justifiable to fine NFL teams if athletes still opt to kneel this upcoming season? I don’t think I can agree with that. I am no longer playing in the NFL, but if I were I hope I would resist the urge to play it safe by standing and blending in with the masses. As I find my voice and look to engage organizations that advance the cause of social change, I am proud to have been a part of New York Jets organization, that while the debate of kneeling is still present, supports its players who decide to kneel , and whose ownership is willing to pay any fine as a result of it.