As we see it, all of those NFL players and owners taking a knee, along with assorted other sports stars, an anthem singer, and a 97-year-old WWII vet, are making an important statement about racial injustice, police brutality and the freedom of speech. But many Americans instead see a bunch of wealthy entertainers who should put on their helmets, perform and go home. Who should keep their politics to themselves, or at least express their views on their own time.
That’s why their protest was so necessary in the first place. And why we see a Kansas City police union’s invitation to Chiefs player Marcus Peters to work with local officers on a community outreach program as a fine idea. The Sept. 10 letter from Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99 — written before President Donald Trump put the issue on the front burner and turned the heat up as high as it would go — invites Peters to get to know them and vice versa. That’s what we all ought to be doing.
“As you can imagine,” Lemon wrote, “many of [our] members including myself disagreed with your decision” to sit out the anthem before the Chiefs’ Sept. 7 season opener against the New England Patriots. “You might expect this letter to contain a litany of criticism and grievances about that decision. It’s not.”
In some spots, Lemon did come off as more snide than wide-open: “No doubt that you are a well-recognized personality throughout Kansas City because of your great God-given talent and physical abilities on the football field.” And because of your hard work, we’re sure he meant to say. “We would love to see you put these talents...to positive use.” As if he’s currently not doing that. No wonder Peters didn’t respond, though his team did.
Still, this part is key: “We really think it would give you a great opportunity to see what we do and give us an opportunity to hear about your concerns that have led to your protest.” That’s exactly the kind of conversation we’ve got to have. Lemon is really saying, “Let’s get to know one another and see where we are then.” Which can’t help but be a better place.
After the president’s incendiary remarks, Lemon wrote on Facebook that when Peters sat through the anthem, “to be honest, as a veteran and a longtime police officer, I was pissed.” Honesty is a pretty good starting point, and the anger is real on all sides. Yet “rather than write a statement fueled by anger,” Lemon said, “I decided to take a breath and think. I know it doesn’t always happen all the time, but in this case, I am glad I did.’’ Now several Chiefs players are interested in accepting the invitation. Lemon is angry still: “It’s easy to kneel in front of the cameras,’’ he wrote accusingly. But he remains open to working with players, and we hope they do, too.