KRAVITZ: The protests may have been muted, but the protestors are still doing important work in the community

FILE Photo - The Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York/File)
Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — It was during a casual, locker room conversation last football season. I was talking to Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett about his work with special-needs kids and I mentioned that my daughter runs the special ed department at Howe High School.

"I might go there to speak to them,'' he said. "Why don't you give her number to Avis (Roper, the Colts media relations man at the time)?''

I figured he was just trying to be nice, or at least blow me off in a very gentle way. He was never going to Howe, was he? Not to paint with too broad a brush, but by and large, athletes don't return texts, much less reach out to a high school in a city where they've lived just a few months.

Then my daughter called.

"Jacoby Brissett is coming to Howe,'' she said joyfully.

When the day came, I tagged along – any excuse to see my kid, right? – and Brissett was great, relating to the kids, many of whom come from difficult circumstances. He spoke to them about the primacy of hard work, about pursuing dreams, about breaking the cycle of poverty that too many families find themselves in.

Why do I tell you this story?

Because the national anthem flap has returned; we can't make it go away, no matter how hard we try. Recently, the NFL owners, those dolts, came up with a rule that would serve the purpose of both dividing teams and muting the players' silent protest against police brutality and other issues of racial inequality. Players either have to stand during the anthem or remain in the locker room.

Then the President disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, saying he would not host them despite the fact that not a single Eagle kneeled last season. Of course, this was just a cover; the truth of the matter is, very few Eagles would have shown up, a major embarrassment for a sitting president.

I tell this story because two of the biggest arguments against the protests are these:

Why do it at football games, like the sight of grown men kneeling in protest is somehow enough to diminish your enjoyment of professional football? So you're not turned off by the brain damage the sports does, or the fact that they don't take domestic violence seriously, but kneeling… Oh. My. God.

Second, if they really want to make a positive change in the community, why don't they do that and stop kneeling in protest?

Let me address the first question:

They do it at football games because protests are designed to grab the largest audience possible. What purpose does a protest serve if it's done in a vacuum? Protests are designed to create and shape a conversation, and while some of this protest has been twisted into a referendum on the flag and the military, the fact is, there has been more talk about police brutality and related racial issues since all of this started.

Second, these athletes ARE doing something, they're doing a lot, even if only a small percentage of their good works get significant publicity. They are mostly working in anonymity, not caring if they get credit or publicity for their contributions of time and money. They do it through their foundations, or they do it the way Brissett did it, simply out of the goodness of his heart.

In October, several Colts joined the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to engage the community in a talk where citizens, and players, could voice their concerns about racial inequality and police brutality.

Later in October, a number of Colts engaged in a large panel discussion at Marian University, discussing the pressing issues that impact this community.

Again in October, the Colts announced the creation of the Colts Players Fund for Equality, which supports charities that promote equality, the community and improving relations between underserved areas and the police. Owner Jim Irsay kicked the fund off with a $100,000 contribution.

In November, a group of Colts met with members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department at the Peace Learning Center to work with 50 sixth graders on issues like resolving problems, managing anger and developing an understanding of different viewpoints.

This is a just a small number of examples, one that barely touches upon all the good works they perform either here in Indy or for their home communities, or both.

The point being clear: They ARE trying to be change agents. They ARE trying to do something. They ARE engaging the community in efforts to improve lives and build a bridge between the citizenry and the police. Colin Kaepernick, who, along with Eric Reid, has been blackballed by NFL franchises, has worked with and given millions to various organizations throughout the country.

These guys are putting their money and time where their mouth is. This is not all about kneeling. It's about doing. It's about reaching out to people in need, reaching out to children who need guidance.

So what will the Colts do about the national anthem this season? My money is on them all standing – whether they like it or not.

"Whatever we decide,'' said Jabaal Sheard, one of the most active players in the community, "we'll do it as a team.''

Last year, a group of Colts, including Sheard, knelt before one game, then came out the next game, a nationally televised game in Seattle, with T-shirts proclaiming their beliefs.

For the life of me, I don't understand why kneeling so infuriates so many. How many of those who are protesting the protests spend the national anthem on line to buy a beer or go to the restroom? Are you so insecure in your own beliefs that you cannot stand to have them challenged? Again, for the thousandth time, it's not a protest against the military or the flag. It's a protest against actions like the ones the police took recently in Mesa, Ariz., beating the heck out of an unarmed black suspect whose only mistake, apparently, was talking on his cell phone.

The protestors stand, and will always stand, on the right side of history.

A lot of people can't see that now. And chances are, they never will.

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