Consistent throughout the American experience has been its citizens’ sense of gratitude. With this gratitude has come a culture steeped in eternal optimism, summarized by the theme…. “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end…” This theme is both visualized and felt as we honor the American flag and sing our national anthem.
As we approach Super Bowl LII, refreshing to millions of Americans will be the absence of NFL teams and players who chose throughout the season to highlight their cause by kneeling in protest of our flag. By the end of the regular season, only five teams featured at least one player regularly sitting or kneeling on the sidelines for the anthem: the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders.
None will be playing in the Super Bowl.
I was fortunate to play during an era when my Jets and Raiders teammates — and NFL peers — would have deemed the actions of today’s players inconceivable. In fact, the response of previous generations was the polar opposite. It was not uncommon to see tough and focused grown men get teary-eyed during those moments of reflection before the kickoff. With this as a backdrop, I suggest there are two factors that have contributed this season to the elimination of the kneelers.
First and foremost there is a spiritual law that is consistent with every long-term winning organization called the Law of Harmony. Words that define this law include: mental and emotion clarity, selflessness with no concern for credit, absolute commitment to team, total loyalty to teammates and the willingness to go the extra mile.
The 1981 Oakland Raiders exemplified the application of the Law of Harmony. The team faced numerous obstacles that season. Among them were 10 new starting players obtained through off-season trades, controversy surrounding a move to Los Angeles, NFL lawsuits to stop the move and a team considered by sports experts as “bottom of the heap” underdogs. It was during this season that Raiders owner Al Davis coined the phrase “Just Win Baby” — and win we did. Understood by his organization was the concept that the team who wins consistently is not always the one stacked with the most talent; it is always though the teams whose talent best assimilates into a culture of harmony.
The demonstrating NFL social justice warriors and the NFL Commissioner — who sanctioned the protests — does not seem to have considered that black and white teammates hold a deep respect for the American flag and the culture it represents. This deep respect for the United States went unacknowledged. Whether it was through politically-correct intimidation or the fear of controversy, the expectations for these patriotic players was that they simply stand and remain quiet. Remaining quiet works for the panning of network cameras and superficial sound bits, but fails to address what is required to get to the Super Bowl: near mental, emotional and physical perfection.
Distractions, disharmony and the slightest degree of discord will bring to an end this quest for perfection.
The second reason for the kneelers absence resides in a second spiritual law: the Law of Gratitude. This law is the Siamese twin of the Law of Harmony. Neither can survive nor thrive without the other. The lack of gratitude brings with it judgment, self-centeredness, anger and a sense of entitlement — all of which undermines the Law of Harmony. Once again, the slightest degree of ingratitude will bring to an end the quest for perfection.
With billion-dollar stadiums littering the country, billions of dollars invested in player talent, over $90 million donated to social justice causes, millions of disillusioned NFL fans and this seasons precipitous fall in viewership — maybe it’s time for NFL leadership to reconsider its options. The owners can choose to resurrection the NFL culture of respect for our country and Flag by simply demanding there will be no disrespect for either during the player’s workday. This approach is adhered to by millions upon millions of employees throughout our country who work for companies, large and small, who are committed to protecting their brand.
Congratulations to both the Patriots and Eagles organizations…. for finding a way through a tumultuous 2017 season to exhibit the harmony you established on the field, within your locker room and on your sideline. We appreciate, as fans, the opportunity to view your gratitude for our Flag, country and your profession, followed by a two-hour exhibition of your harmoniously honed talents.
As a nation, we also look forward to supporting your off-season efforts to address the dire needs within a community whose needs have gone unaddressed for far too long.
Burgess Owens played safety in the National Football League for 10 seasons. He won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 1981. He is also the author of “Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.