Detroit Pistons head coach and president Stan Van Gundy stands with professional athletes who don’t stand during the national anthem. And he most definitely stands with those who have embraced other forms of protests in recent months.
Van Gundy penned a piece for Time magazine, wherein he praised pro athletes for using their voices and expressing their right to protest. The entire thing is worth a read, but this excerpt is (rightfully) making the rounds:
We should never forget that this country was founded by protesters. Our founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain because they were dissatisfied with the laws and policies that they believed abridged their freedoms. Had they taken the stance that many want our professional athletes to take — to just shut up and honor your country no matter what — we would be living in British colonies. Furthermore, as Dr. Dyson reminded our team, protest has nearly always been the catalyst for meaningful change. And it has always made people uncomfortable. This was true of the abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, all of which shined a bright and needed light on injustice, demanded that our country live up to its stated ideals and produced our most meaningful change. To be sure, they made people feel uncomfortable along the way, but those were the people who needed to feel uncomfortable. People should never be permitted to feel comfortable while trampling the rights of others.
This point is a spectacular one. The outrage over players—specifically in the NFL—exerting one of their inalienable rights is, quite frankly, pathetic. Colin Kaepernick didn’t start some anti-American movement by kneeling for the national anthem. These players aren’t protesting the anthem itself. They’re protesting rampant injustices the country, or they’re protesting in support of their teammates who want to protest such things.
Whether you agree with them or not isn’t the point. You have to respect their right to stand up for what they believe in—to, as Van Gundy explained, put their livelihood on the line for the sake of using their unique platform in support of what they deem the greater good.
Equally important: You cannot move the goal posts on what they’re trying to do. Disagree with their methods if you must. But don’t turn a display aimed at, say, denouncing police brutality against minorities into a contrived act of betrayal.