Continuing the trend from last season, the National Anthem is being used by some players in the National Football League as an opportunity to stage protests.
Last season, quarterback now former San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew attention for not standing during The Star-Spangled Banner. In the NFL’s preseason launching this summer, Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks has said he will sit during the song this season in protest of the social injustice and segregation that he believes are taking place.
Former NFL linebacker Bryan Schwartz – who is a co-founder of the Family Goals counseling ministry with his wife – told OneNewsNow that it is obviously shocking to see players protest the National Anthem, but he stressed that we need to be willing to try to understand why players are choosing this route.
"It's stirring – it's tapping into something that I think needs to be tapped into because until we recognize what's going on in individuals’ lives, it's really hard to see transformation take place," Schwartz maintained.
The defensive star who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1990s hopes that the conversation over the protests will be productive and not just turn into "a gripe session."
"[We need to be careful] because a lot of times, these just turn into 'we think we're right … somebody else is wrong,' – and therefore, we kind off write them off,” Schwartz added. “And in [doing] that, we kind of commit an error, and we take away their right just to be human and have choices."
Schwartz emphasized that the players involved are grown men making choices, and they have to live with the consequences. Sometimes, he argues, young athletes need to have the opportunity to grow and change into their worldview.
He pointed to comments made by NFL Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy last season on NBC.
"And there was a time when I didn't stand up for the National Anthem, but as I grew as a Christian man, I felt like that wasn't the right thing to do for me,” Dungy explained to football viewers on NBC. “There was something that I could do to make it better. So, when I saw racial injustice that I perceived, I stood for the National Anthem, but I bowed my head and I prayed that God would make us a country that really was the 'land of the free and the home of the brave.' I thought, ‘That's the way I personally could protest and make the situation better.’"
Schwartz maintains that the league cannot really mandate that a player stand during the National Anthem, but the individual teams can have a lot of say in the matter.
"I know as an athlete, I've been trained to sacrifice myself for the benefit of the team – and every team's culture is different – and no team can really mandate that they all stand, but a team culture can kind of dictate that, and so part of that is going to be up to their teams, too, to deal with it as they see fit," Schwartz concluded.