“I just think it’s important to keep this conversation going, that we don’t let it get stagnant. You know, as we understand it, everybody’s kind of waiting to see what the league is going to do… It’s just my personal decision to keep these things at the forefront.” So said Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles captain after raising his fist during the National Anthem in the preseason game between the Eagles and the Steelers. Players on the Miami Dolphins took a knee and raised fists, players on the Jaguars stayed in the locker room, and in the 12 NFL preseason games, there were random displays of disrespect for our Flag, our military and our Country.

Although the team owners issued a policy requiring that all team members will stand and show respect for the flag and Anthem, or remain off the field during the Anthem, the players association filed a grievance saying that ruling infringed on the players rights. The NFL caved and put their policy on hold until a solution could be found.

The conversation Jenkins and others claim to want to keep going is that of social injustice toward blacks. They point to the statistic that 60% of people in prison are people of color. I would say to these players, that they would do better for mitigating this social fact by being outstanding role models for young people of color. Encourage them to stay in school, stay out of gangs, respect their parents, and their peers, respect and obey laws and law enforcement. Encourage work ethic and human ethics, and encourage families to stay together. Taking a knee serves no purpose. It angers the fans that pay to see football. As I sit in the airport as I write, football is on the TV. There are people that walk by and say, “I will not watch football, keep walking”. I have never heard that before! Taking a knee and raising fists brings bad feelings to Americans, not good ones. It hurts the cause they purport to want to fix. It drives a wedge between races.

The facts are clear that there are a high number people of color in prisons. The facts are also clear that they committed the offenses that put them there. It’s not that they should not be in prison, it is that they should not have committed the crime that put them there. The recidivism rate is the highest for black males aged 18-39, and the more times they go to prison, the more likely they will repeat offend and end up there again.

There is a solution, and it will take time and effort. The solution is going back to the root causes of the problems. NFL players think the root cause is discrimination by white people. I say the root cause is the lack of intact families, the lack of children being brought up in homes that have discipline, faith, role models, and consequences for bad behavior and incentives for good behavior. There is no respect for law enforcement, for authority figures, for parents or for peers. There is no setting of goals to achieve to move young people’s futures forward. When these elements are missing, they have no direction, no sense of community, and they are ripe for joining gangs to fill that space, and then bend to peer pressure of drugs and violence. These factors are color-blind. We have to have people become accountable for their actions, and if they become parents, they must understand that what their child sees at those young ages has a strong influence on what they become.

If fist raising and taking a knee would help, we’d all do it, but let’s get real. It is a self-serving, self-aggrandizing, look at me, thing to do. It harms their team members, angers the fans, and hurts the sport. Help by being a positive role model, do commercials, do appearances, get in with the people you see as victims. Take some of your millions in pay and create some community centers where kids can be safe and learn how to become contributing adults. All players do by raising a fist is tell thugs you are with them. Instead, tell them how to behave in ways that will move their lives forward. If kids want to join a group they can join a church, or the YMCA, rather than a gang.

These NFL players have cost their league millions of dollars. They have taken the joy out of the game for many fans. What they have not done is help those they say are the victims of “social injustice”. 

Malcolm Jenkins can keep his personal decision to keep things at the forefront off the gridiron. He is on a team, he doesn’t get to take his personal opinions out on the field. Do players think that by taking a knee and insulting our Flag and our Military that some solution will miraculously happen? It’s your job to take a knee and someone else’s job to fix the social landscape? Think about how self-centered that is. Get out and do something positive to make people of colors’ lives better, and steer them in a direction of happiness over anger, and work over gangs and drugs, and family over single parents. These are human lives we are talking about here, and the point is to help others advance their lives, realize their potentials, and live in harmony no matter their color. It’s not about color until you all make it be so. It’s about people, every kind, every color, and every age, everywhere.

I am ashamed of those NFL players disrespecting our country. Football will never be on in my house until this changes, and shame on the NFL for its cowardice in stopping this. First amendment does not apply while your on are a paying job, at work. Those players and owners in the NFL should not put up with team members making individual spectacles of themselves and diminishing the respect for the entire team and organization and sport. Get off your knees guys and help those you purport to fight for. Your message and your influence would go a lot farther, and you just may become heroes instead of zeroes. God bless America and our Military and all first responders. And God bless those Americans who could use a hand from these NFL exhibitionists, rather than a knee or a fist.

Image: (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Linda Martinelli is the owner and President of Proforma Graphic Printsource,Inc, Co-Owner and CFO of ETCforensic LLC, CFO of Martinelli & Associates .com. She is a weekly columnist to America Out Loud, and is host of Talking While Married. Linda is the first sole female franchise owner in Proforma to qualify for the Million Dollar Club and reach Multi-Million Dollar Club status. She was also Proforma’s first female development coach and in 2005, was the first female elected by her business peers to the elite Owners Advisory Council. In 2011, Linda was named one of ASI’s Top 10 Women to Watch and earned Proforma’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Award in 2012.