By State Rep. Rich Wingo
As a former linebacker for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the University of Alabama, I had the opportunity to play for two of the finest men to ever serve as head coaches – Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bart Starr.
One of the most important lessons Coach Bryant and Coach Starr taught me was plain and simple respect – respect for ourselves, respect for our coaches and teammates, and respect for our great nation. They also stressed showing your class in every situation and being humble.
The current “protests” being staged against our nation’s flag and anthem by players throughout the NFL violate every principle of respect those two great men drilled into players like me during their careers.
The NFL is currently suffering from a complete lack of good leadership and it hurts me to watch it happen. The two coaches under whom I played simply would not have allowed the current situation to come to pass, and, instead, would demand that their players show proper respect for the patriotic symbols of our nation and its people.
Like many Americans, I do not view the act of NFL players “taking a knee” during the National Anthem as an acceptable form of protest.
Most of the players who have chosen to sit or kneel have not outlined a specific reason, stated a goal, or defined what constitutes a victory in their eyes. If they have no goals to achieve by kneeling, how can they know when to start standing again?
A protest without a purpose is not a protest – it’s a tantrum.
The sadness of the situation was only compounded when players for the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars took a knee when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played before their recent game on foreign soil in London, but they stood at attention during “God Save The Queen.”
I do believe that every American has the right to protest or to have their voice heard, but they must be prepared to accept the consequences. Americans are likely to abandon the NFL by the millions if players continue to betray and insult our nation and its enduring symbols of freedom.
There are other, more effective and less offensive methods players may utilize to express their dissatisfaction with whatever is angering them. They could easily stage a rally, hold a press conference to protest, or, more importantly, invest or volunteer in their communities and do something constructive to change lives for the better.
We do not have to look too far into our nation’s past to see where the disrespect for American values and symbols took root. Activist judges and weak leadership in past generations forced the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer to be taken out of our children’s classrooms, and Hollywood has joined forces with the mainstream media to promote a radical social agenda that has turbocharged moral decay.
Millions of brave men and women have fought, bled, and died on foreign battlefields across the globe in order to defend our nation and the symbols that define it. In my opinion, the NFL players’ actions are one step away from burning an American flag on the 50-yard line, and the commissioner, team owners, and coaches need to do what Coach Bryant and Coach Starr would have done by demanding an end to the on-going sideline shenanigans immediately.
State Rep. Rich Wingo (R – Tuscaloosa) serves House District 62 in the Alabama Legislature. A member of the University of Alabama football team from 1974 – 1978, he participated in the famous “Goal Line Stand” during the 1979 Sugar Bowl, which helped earn the national championship. Wingo played linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1979 – 1986 and was named the team’s MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. He was awarded the NFL’s Man of the Year honor in 1982.