What a contrast.
The picture of the grieving wife of Black U.S. Army Green Beret Sgt. La David Johnson – killed in an ambush in Niger, Africa – sobbing over his flag-covered casket; and that of Black NFL players of his same generation dishonoring the national anthem and the flag for which he died, so that they could have the freedom to disrespect both.
These pampered athletes’ major achievements in life include making it to the NFL because they are the best at catching or running with a football, or knocking people down – not quite life-and-death challenges.
While they were playing football, Johnson at the young age of 25, had become a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces Green Berets!
While NFL protesters’ mission is to win football games, the mission of Johnson’s Green Berets is unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action and counterterrorism to protect us from our enemies around the world.
It was in the course of such activities that Johnson and three of his Green Beret brothers were ambushed and killed in Niger. They were supporting local forces fighting terrorist’s groups such as Isis, Boko Haram, and al-Qaida – a bit more difficult than picking up first downs on a football field.
Most, if not all, of those raising their fists and kneeling to protest the flag and anthem can’t hold a candle to Johnson in terms of the awards and decorations he received in his short life and career, including the U.S. Army Achievement, Good Conduct, War on Terrorism Service, and Global Medals; the U.S. Army Service Ribbon; and the U.S. Army Parachutist Badge Additionally, Sgt. Johnson received the Canadian Parachutist Wings after participating in operations with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Made all proud
He was quite a guy! His family, community, state, and nation can be proud of him. They can be proud of his service, sacrifice, and selfless devotion to his country. The same applies to those who died with him.
In honoring Johnson, Florida Governor Rick Scott said that he and his three colleagues “made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and our freedom. We will never forget their heroic actions. We will continue to pray for the safety of all our brave military members across our country and abroad.”
It’s too bad that the actions of those athletes who continue to dishonor the flag and the anthem send the opposite message – whether they, the NFL, team owners and their allies admit it or not.
That’s why the NFL should require – not suggest – that players stand during the national anthem. If they don’t, they should be fined by the league. Owners should have the discretion to bench them if they refuse to obey.
War is real
In most cases, the worst thing NFL players must worry about is a penalty or a game-, season- or career-ending injury. For soldiers like Johnson and his three colleagues, the worst thing is death. Football is a game – war is real.
If you think that there is irony in the contrast of the two images noted above, there’s another irony in this ongoing NFL saga – the racial double standard.
Do you really think that a White NFL player could have gotten away with disrespecting the national anthem and American flag as has been the case with these Black athletes? No way!
Why? Because the commissioner and owners are White; most, if not all, of the protesters are Black. Also, over 70 per cent of the players are Black. You can bet that the NFL and owners did not want to be called “racist.” They are intimidated by race.
Real double standard
There’s no doubt that there is a racial double standard at the NFL. If you are White and make controversial statements or protest the flag and anthem against the best advice of the NFL or an owner, you probably wouldn’t have a job for long.
The problem for the NFL is that such a double standard where Blacks can protest but Whites better not may lead to subtle locker room division and resentment, costing victories on the field.
If Colin Kaepernick had been White, I am sure he would have been fined or suspended and the matter would have been closed. But don’t dare do that to a Black player or you will be called a racist or get a call from the Rev. Al Sharpton or the NAACP – neither of whom could pay one cent of any player’s salary.
It’s not too dissimilar from the case of ESPN Black host Jemele Hill, who first called Trump a “White supremacist” and later said that fans should boycott Dallas Cowboys advertisers because owner Jerry Jones said any player who refused to stand for the national anthem would be benched.
Although suspended for the latter, she was not disciplined for the first comment – unlike White former ESPN host Curt Shilling, who was fired after posting a statement on social media opposing transgender bathroom policies. I’m betting that if she were White, she would have been fired long ago.
All of this said, wouldn’t it be a great gesture for the protesting Miami Dolphins, or the entire team – whose stadium is in Johnson’s hometown of Miami Gardens – to step up to the plate and establish a fund to provide for the education of Johnson’s children?
Don’t hold your breath.
Clarence V. McKee is a government, political and media relations consultant and president of McKee Communications, Inc., as well as a Newsmax.com contributor. This article originally appeared on Newsmax.com.