In a long-winded essay for TIME Magazine, Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy argues strenuously that NFL and WNBA players who have protested the national anthem are “role models of American patriotism.”
Beginning from the premise that he has been coaching for roughly 20 years in a league that is 75% black, Van Gundy writes, “In a time where bigotry seems on the rise and commitment to racial equality on the decline, I have an obligation as a citizen to speak out and to support, in any way possible, those brave and patriotic athletes who are working to bring change to our country.”
The irony of Van Gundy claiming “racial equality is on the decline” while coaching in a league chock-full of black athletes making millions of dollars each year, can hardly be overestimated.
Nevertheless, in the immortal words used by leftists all too common recently, he persists, citing Michael Eric Dyson’s distinction between nationalism and patriotism:
Nationalism, he said, is supporting your country no matter what, right or wrong. Patriotism, on the other hand, is caring so deeply about your country that you take it as your duty to hold it accountable to its highest values and to fight to make it the very best it can be. Under this definition, these athletes and coaches are role models of American patriotism.
And so, Van Gundy posits, “Honoring America has to mean much, much more than standing at attention for a song (one which, by the way, contains racist language in later verses).”
A song, one might add, that has been honored by the nation’s greatest heroes, whether in the military or those defending our streets, for roughly 200 years.
Van Gundy notes that our military, in defending America, has defended the right to free speech, which the athletes have chosen to exercise. Thus he opines that the very act of exercising their right to free speech is an action to be lauded. The question might be asked, is the very act of speaking freely something to be honored? Does the content matter?
Van Gundy likens the athletes to the patriots who launched the Revolutionary War to protest against abuses by Great Britain. He writes, “Our founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain because they were dissatisfied with the laws and policies that they believed abridged their freedoms.”
Van Gundy posits that the athletes who protest are willing to make “significant personal sacrifices,” adding, “These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”
Then, the condemnation of America as a land of systemic racism:
What is it that they want? Simply and succinctly: equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynchings and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color, we have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem, that dishonors our country.