OK, let’s get this out of the way. Anything related to national anthem protests is going to be a hot button issue, and that is perfectly OK. It is open discussion that helps promote actual change on any number of subjects. When San Francisco 49ers and former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines and turned heads by choosing to protest the national anthem for what he suggested were social inequalities, he got praised and roasted for it depending on what side o the line you stand. In the recent weeks the discussion has at times trickled into the college football world, and it did once again on Tuesday when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was asked if he would punish any player for sitting during the playing of the national anthem before a game.
Of course, keep in mind, it is not typical for most college football players to even be on the field at the time the national anthem is performed, as most generally are in the locker room while the marching band is on the field for the pregame routine. Alas, Swinney responded and then used the opportunity to expand on his thoughts, perhaps a little too long for his own good.
“The only thing I’m going to discipline my player for is things within this team and the team rules, holding everybody accountable to the standard,” Swinney said, according to The Post and Courier. “Guys want to be part of things, I just think they should do it on their own time, and outside of the team framework. That’s just my opinion.”
It was also Swinney’s opinion that those who do sit during the national anthem are being a distraction to the team. Swinney went on to suggest there is a time and a place to voice your opinions, which may not be received very well by some. A rich white man telling others how and when to protest is how it comes off, and that pretty much supports the reasoning behind such a protest movement in the first place.
“I don’t think it’s good to be a distraction to your team,” Swinney said. “I don’t think it’s good to use the team as the platform. I totally disagree with that. Nobody’s really asked me about Kaepernick or whatever. I totally disagree with that. Not his protest, but I just think there’s a right way to do things and I don’t think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. And I think that it just creates more divisiveness, more division.”
Swinney may be right about that to an extent, as the dividing lines have certainly been drawn on this particular subject, even if some people are stepping foot on one side of the line for reasons beyond the actual purpose for the national anthem protest. Swinney then used his role as head coach of Clemson to recite a couple of lessons from the Bible to support his case, and .used Martin Luther King Jr’s mission and cited President Barack Obama winning two elections and black quarterbacks and coaches in football to continue padding his case. It’s at this point Swinney probably went on a little too long to try and drive home a point. These examples in our society do nothing to suggest the black population in this country is on equal footing in our societies, and citing these examples ends up coming off disingenuous to those who may support the national anthem protests.
Swinney seems like a good man, and by all accounts he is. This does not change that in any way, because it is clear Swinney is using his voice to promote an open discussion and shares his sentiments about what is going on in this world. But don’t tell people how and when to protest, and don’t use black quarterbacks as a means for suggesting there is a level ground in the social justice world in which we live.
All Swinney had to do was say he would not discipline any player. Sometimes less is more.