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Taking a knee


12/07/17



As a die-hard football fan, my dad worked to ensure his kids were raised to cherish the New England Patriots. Over the years, I have found myself embarrassed, at times, to admit my allegiance to this game. From domestic violence to an overabundance of untreated traumatic brain injuries, the league has been riddled with controversy around a variety of topics.  
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee in 2016 during the playing of the national anthem, I was appalled by the outcry, especially from a group that was notoriously quiet about far more egregious offenses. In September 2017, when President Trump tweeted his displeasure about the continued protest by the mostly black NFL players, the pot was stirred again; more outcries and now pledges to boycott the league.
The truth is, very few of us know enough about the history of race in our nation to fully understand the breadth of what the players are protesting. Black history is noticeably absent from our K-12 education systems and is only starting to have a larger presence in our higher education institutions. The contribution of African-Americans in our country reaches far beyond their performances in athletic arenas or on stage. Our first great commodity, cotton, was picked by the hands of black slaves and their millions of hours of uncompensated labor helped to build this country. The White House was literally built by both free and enslaved African-Americans. Even today, the contributions of African-Americans in our society go unnoticed by the masses. When we say things like “ungrateful and greedy millionaires” in reference to the players taking a knee, we should work to find the root of our bias and the accuracy of such accusations.
As the granddaughter of a World War II veteran, I was raised to respect the flag and appreciate this country’s freedoms. I also remember seeing photos of my grandfather’s unit where he served alongside fellow whites and also numerous blacks. He was a second-generation American and did not have the longer and deeper history of many of his African-American fellow soldiers did. Still, he was an American soldier in their eyes and they fought together to protect the freedoms of those who call the United States home.
As an avid Patriots fan, there has been a lot to be proud of with this team over the past decade but none of it makes me prouder than when the team stood in solidarity the week after “the tweet.” We are a united nation and, in that moment, those players reminded us all that we are stronger together.  
Allyson Ryder serves as associate director at Leadership NH and sits on several statewide nonprofit boards and committees. 





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