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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Would 200 years of black patriots approve of today’s NFL flag protesters?

It’s sometimes difficult to remember these days but it really wasn’t all that long ago that prominent members of the “civil rights” crowd were proud to salute the American flag.

With a long history of segregation in the military, black Americans battled the color barrier for two centuries before achieving equal status in the eyes of the United States government. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, “establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and If flag should fallOpportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.”

Separate and unequal wasn’t just a WWII phenomenon, either. Black American soldiers fought valiantly for the stars and stripes since the earliest days of the American republic. It’s been estimated that by the end of the Revolutionary War, for example, that as many as one out of every four men in uniform were black (though the actual number was likely 10 to 15 percent). These African descendants served with distinction, too.

As written by Elizabeth M. Collins for Soldiers Live in 2013, “Desperate for manpower, Washington reluctantly agreed [to free slaves in exchange for their military service], and more than 140 black men signed up for what was better known as the ‘Black Regiment’ … and served until Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Va., in 1781.

“In fact, they fought so bravely and inflicted so many casualties on Hessian mercenaries during the battle of Newport, R.I., in the summer of 1778, that … one Hessian officer resigned his commission rather than lead his men against the 1st Rhode Island after the unit had repelled three fierce Hessian assaults. He didn't want his men to think he was leading them to slaughter.”

There’s nothing quite like being deprived of freedom to grasp the true meaning of the concept. Black veterans didn’t always receive what they were promised after their service in the American War for Independence but today the value of their sacrifices is recognized alongside the rest of their comrades in arms.

Even leftist-dominated Hollywood produced films dedicated to the depiction of black Americans revering the flag. In the 1989 movie Glory there are numerous scenes where black soldiers from the newly formulated 54th Massachusetts infantry regiment discussed the honor and privilege of fighting for their people and their country.

In perhaps the story’s most salient moment, as his regiment was about to assault a virtually impenetrable position Colonel Robert Shaw (played by actor Matthew Broderick) famously asks, “If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?”

There was no shortage of volunteers for the duty. Then, as now, carrying the flag in battle was viewed as a great honor – though it was also seen as a practically suicidal endeavor since the color bearers almost always drew heavy fire and hence many paid the ultimate price with their lives for the privilege of lifting high the cloth.

These black soldiers in America’s wars were the real pioneers of equality, those who demonstrated through devotion and valor that they were every bit the match of the best white combatants. President Lincoln credited colored units with turning the tide of the civil war. And it’s a little known fact that towards the end of the conflict men like Robert E. Lee advocated for and was granted the ability to incorporate black men into the confederate army (it should be noted the war ended before many actually made it to the ranks).

Segregation by race made no sense back then just as the NFL players’ protests of those soldiers’ precious American flag have no rational footing today. Granted not many folks credit football players with possessing tremendous intellects but there’s little excuse for ignorance of the struggles of black American fighting men to achieve equality under those fifty stars and thirteen stripes. How many gave up their lives to achieve that equality? It must be in the tens of thousands.

On Sunday Vice President Mike Pence took a different kind of stand for the flag in his home state of Indiana when a group of San Francisco 49ers (about to face the Indianapolis Colts) knelt during the pregame playing of the national anthem. Pence made headlines for leaving the stadium after the silent protest and liberal commentators accused him of reigniting a controversy that had begun to lose its force.

President Trump commended his VP for the deed. Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reported, “President Trump said Monday that Vice President Pence is winning rave reviews for his decision to walk out of an NFL game after players kneeled during the national anthem.

“’The trip by @VP Pence was long planned. He is receiving great praise for leaving game after the players showed such disrespect for country!’ Trump tweeted Monday morning...

“Trump took credit on Sunday for Pence's early departure from an Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game in the former Indiana governor's home state…”

After the event several pundits argued how it looked suspicious that Pence would fly across country for what turned out to be a brief moment in front of the certain-to-kneel San Francisco team and a jillion TV cameras waiting to capture his reaction to the offensive protest.

Trump’s Monday tweets basically confirmed Pence’s action was conceived well in advance. I say, so what?

NFL players and owners have shown little inclination towards acknowledging the fallacy and insensitivity of their flag affronts and Pence and Trump were merely indicating that the issue would not simply be swept under the rug while the faux “free speech” demonstrations continued without an ending in sight. Liberals cynically argue Trump is using the issue as a political hammer to bludgeon his enemies, but isn’t it the players who are prolonging the discussion by sitting or kneeling during the anthem in perpetuity?

Haven’t they already made their point? Isn’t it now more or less about dissing America and Trump than it is about some ill-defined cause concerning police brutality and racism?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners created this monster when they failed to address Colin Kaepernick’s initial public relations stunts early last season. They remained mum as Kaepernick and several other players around the league continued their flag bashing throughout the course of the 2016 season. It’s a good thing Kaepernick and the 49ers were so lousy because if they’d made the playoffs -- and then the Super Bowl -- the entire lead-up to the already over-hyped event would have been filled with leftist propaganda about how awful and unjust America is.

For their part the 49ers management appears to agree with the players’ reoccurring offenses. “As the majority of us have done throughout our careers, we use our platform as members of a NFL team, and our right to freedom of expression, to speak up for those whose voice is not heard. [Italics added]”

Just who are the people whose voices aren’t being heard? Liberals are fond of taking credit for sticking up for the defenseless, but aren’t these “voices” the same ones who rioted and destroyed their own neighborhoods whenever an incident occurred between police and the community in recent years? Plenty of buildings have been reduced to ashes from Los Angeles to Milwaukee to Baltimore by those who “could not speak” for themselves.

Don’t be fooled. These players aren’t speaking out on any “cause;” they’re drawing attention to themselves for a plight that resulted from the destruction of morals and values in poor communities, the vast majority of which happen to be inhabited by racial minorities. Instead of addressing the root causes of poverty and lack of opportunity in these environs these glory seekers blame racism, systematic suppression -- and the American flag -- and then use it to draw focus to their own “voices.”

The police aren’t to blame either. Walter E. Williams wrote in CNS News last week, “So what can be done? Black people need to find new heroes. Right now, at least in terms of the support given, their heroes are criminals such as Baltimore's Freddie Gray, Ferguson's Michael Brown and Florida's Trayvon Martin. Black support tends to go toward the criminals in the community rather than to the overwhelming number of people in the community who are law-abiding. That needs to end.

“What also needs to end is the lack of respect for and cooperation with police officers. Some police are crooked, but black people are likelier to be victims of violent confrontations with police officers than whites simply because blacks commit more violent crimes than whites per capita.”

Williams backs up his claims with statistics. As John Adams famously observed, facts are stubborn things. And NFL players (and owners and management) are stubborn in their own way by failing to acknowledge that there’s another side to the argument. Most reasonable people don’t deny that a trust gap exists in the poorest communities with police but these people aren’t “silent” and their appalling living conditions are well-known to anyone with life’s experience.

Meanwhile, the NFL itself is taking a huge hit in public opinion for their politically correct pride. Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reported, “Over just one month of player, coach, and owner protests of the flag and National Anthem, the National Football League has gone from America's sport to the least liked of top professional and college sports, according to a new poll.

“From the end of August to the end of September, the favorable ratings for the NFL have dropped from 57 percent to 44 percent, and it has the highest unfavorable rating – 40 percent – of any big sport, according to the Winston Group survey...”

For what it’s worth, not all NFL owners are passively going along with the players’ leftist ruse. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said over the weekend that any of his players who disrespect the flag will not be playing.

If every NFL owner and the league’s management would only take a similar stance to Jones’s this controversy could conceivably cool down and people like Vice President Pence wouldn’t need to show up at games just to make a point.

History shows that many, many people of all races and religions have given their lives for the privilege of recognition under the American flag. It’s a tradition that’s survived the centuries and will no doubt outlive the current whines and insults. The NFL would be wise to acknowledge it.

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