Marcus Peters, sitting mute on that trainer’s bench while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played before Thursday night’s game — why, it’s enough to make a Chiefs fan root for Tom Brady.
OK, maybe that’s a bridge too far. And this time, Peters didn’t raise a fist as he did at last year’s season opener, or ride a stationary bike as he did in the preseason. But it’s clear that the Kansas City cornerback’s silent protests are picking at a scar that feels increasingly raw these days.
The facile symbolism is thick: An ungratefully prosperous African-American athlete damned the very foundation of the nation that granted him his fortune, just before taking on a team literally named the Patriots. And Brady, New England’s square-jawed, all-American superstar quarterback is a longtime “good friend” and golfing buddy of President Donald Trump.
Or, through a different lens: An unapologetic American success story chose not to rise for a song that wasn’t even adopted as the national anthem until 1931 — and whose lyrics were penned by a slave owner, and whose seldom-sung third verse may or may not cheer the deaths of slaves — standing on principle, then earning the Chiefs’ biggest regular season win over a team of cheaters who still sport Super Bowl rings.
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Time to dial it back a bit. We’re all slogging along together through this great age of outrage, fueled by the talk radio and internet tantrum machines. One man’s protest isn’t a referendum on who loves this country most.
Activism is old hat in professional sports, from Muhammed Ali’s civil rights crusade to John Carlos’ and Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics. So why is Colin Kaepernick unemployed today? And who gets to define just what patriotism means?
Contrary to our Facebook timelines, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has not dismissed players as “paid performers on a stage.” A team spokesman said Friday that they stand by a statement from last year where they committed to “have conversations, educate ourselves and others on social issues.”
For his part, Peters may be an open book, but it isn’t always so easy to follow the plot. He hasn’t said much directly about his intentions, and puzzling them out from his mercurial social media feeds sometimes calls for the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes. He’d do well to open up and state his case explicitly — and hope for listeners with open minds.
Equality-minded Republicans know just how infuriating it is to be shouted down as a bigot on the basis of nothing more than party affiliation. That’s not why the Founding Fathers established a bedrock of free speech. Marcus Peters is owed that right absolutely. He wouldn’t advocate for change if he didn’t want a stronger country. We want to hear his ideas.