The Black Church’s Example of Forgiveness Could Solve the NFL’s National Anthem Protest Problem

by Shawn Windsor

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia didn’t want to talk about it. Neither did several of his players.

Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, just wants it all to go away.

One person who gleefully chimes in about the NFL and its anthem policy is President Donald Trump, who suggested last week that a player who kneels during the anthem should be fired.

Again.

Meanwhile, almost every week, a black face gets beaten. Or gets spit at. Or a black torso gets bruised. Or a black body crumples to the ground after a jolt from a stun gun, or a kick from the boot of a police officer.

The images are startling and nauseating, and pop up on newscasts and social media way too frequently. This — THIS — is why NFL players took a knee last year.

Not because they hate their country. Not because they wanted to mock the flag. Not because they despise the national anthem or the military or fallen soldiers.

They wanted to call attention to injustice and used the biggest platform they had. It’s not that hard to understand.

And yet … here we are, at the start of another NFL season, talking to players and coaches about the league’s ever-changing anthem policy. Listening to owners — yes, you, Jerry Jones — admit it’s really about business.

Reading more inflammatory words from our President.

You know what? Black folks wish it would go away, too. Wish the negative assumptions and the stereotypes and the racism would just disappear.

I can’t imagine how tired they must be of fighting this fight. Of taking the high road. Of forgiving.

Forgiving?

Yes, forgiving.

Our ignorance. Our spite. Our fear.

But then that has been their history, forced to understand everyone else. That happened again last week, when news broke that the black players on Michigan State’s football team voted — unanimously — to accept linebacker Jon Reschke back onto the team.

Reschke had been dismissed 17 months earlier for using the N-word regarding his black teammates. He apologized and asked them for forgiveness.

That they gave it to him wasn’t a shock. The willingness to forgive is rooted in the black Christian church. You could hear that in the words of MSU safety Khari Willis.

“I live by the words of Jesus,” he said. “So He told me if I can’t forgive somebody, He’s not gonna forgive me. So, I live by those words, and I’ll live with the results, obviously.”

Willis went on to explain what he hoped would come out of his decision, and the decision of his teammates to welcome Reschke back.

“I would say it’s more about learning,” he said. “Learning a). How to forgive and move on, and b). Learning some mistakes not to make. If you know Jon as a person, then you understand that he’s no way, shape or form like that. We hang out with him every day, we understand him, we know him.”

We may not know the NFL players who’ve knelt — and who grapple with the decision as to whether they should — as Willis knows Reschke. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

If Willis can talk about the teachings of Jesus and forgiveness, why can’t Jerry Jones?

If Willis can talk about learning to understand, why can’t President Trump?

Why can a 22-year-old college senior speak to our better natures, but our national leaders and figures can’t?

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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press