Pro Athletes Can Make a Difference By Standing Tall, Not By Taking a Knee

Pro Athletes Can Make a Difference By Standing Tall, Not By Taking a Knee

In high school, I took a class titled Sports Literature. The opening words of the textbook we were given stated, “Sports are a microcosm of life.”

We were all asked to elaborate on what that statement meant to us.

To me, the explanation was simple. I have had a love of both playing and watching sports since I could walk. To me, it meant that sports teach you life lessons. Sometimes you can have a bad day and still win. Sometimes you can be at your best, give it everything you have, and still lose. Sports can often be an imitation of life.

Life isn’t easy. Perhaps the best quote ever came from the movie Rocky Balboa:

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

I used to turn to sports to get away from life for a few hours at a time. I enjoyed watching my teams, as it took my mind off of money, bills, wars, and everything else that keeps a man up at night. Sports, to me, showed how people of all races, religions, and views, could come together as a team for one common goal, despite their differences, to succeed and become champions.

Sports are a microcosm of life.

Yes, sports can be an imitation of life, but I often wondered, why couldn’t life imitate sports?

Why can’t a divided America, and divided Politicians work together as one, instead of looking like spoiled petulant little children that cry over not getting their way? That’s not how life works. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When you lose, you learn from your mistakes and make improvements to become better. All of this bitching, moaning, and name calling isn’t getting us anywhere. Where once America was a shining beacon of light, we are now a punchline. A joke.

Half the country wants the President to fail. What the hell good is that going to accomplish? Over political differences? That’s like rooting for the pilot of your flight to pass out.

The United States of America? United on what? The only thing I see Americans united in is hate over another person not fully in agreement with their own views and opinions.

So now in sports, a place I could go to get away from all of this garbage, has been infiltrated and infected by life’s issues. Now the sports world is in turmoil and divided thanks to some athletes one-sided views on politics, teams refusing White House Invitations after winning a championship, and by NFL players taking knees during the playing of our National Anthem before games.

On Sunday, Steeler Nation, one of the largest and most rabid fan bases in all of sports, were at each others throats all day after all of the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to stay in the tunnel for the National Anthem–all of them except for former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood 30 feet in front of them by himself, with his hand over his heart during the anthem.

“Al is a unique circumstance, what he’s been through, some of the things he’s talked about before,” Steelers guard David DeCastro said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Al. I wish there was a different way to do this thing. We’ve got some people who look at the national anthem as patriotism, soldiers, all the stuff that it means, and obviously, people are upset, and I understand that.

“I just wish both sides understand that they want the right thing, but doing it through the national anthem, I wish there was a different way.”

This issue may have led to Steeler player’s mindsets not being entirely focused on their actual jobs, in which they lost to the Bears 23-17 in overtime.

Even Ben Roethlisberger said, “I’d probably be lying if I said no.”

Villanueva didn’t have any comments for the press yesterday, but he did have this to say last season when asked about the issue.

“I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year…when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,” Villanueva told ESPN in 2016.

He added: “I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay. You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country.”

Today, you have LeBron James stating, “It’s powerful what all these athletes are doing. It’s not about the disrespect of our flag and the military that’s made this world free. It’s about equality”

Well, LeBron, there are a lot of people that don’t see it that way. A lot of people are confused on what or who is not considered ‘equal’.

None of this is constructive unless actions are made to better the world we live in.

Pro athletes can make a difference by standing tall for the issues they believe in, not by taking a knee, or by bashing the President. I’ll explain later.

All of the kneelings began with Colin Kaepernick last season with the San Francisco 49ers.

Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Well, that flag and this country represent a set of values that people in other countries dream to have. That flag stands for freedom and is a symbol of hope. That flag and the freedoms provided beneath its blanket of security was bought and provided for by the brave men and women of our armed forces, many of which paid the ultimate sacrifice to let me write this article, and for you to be reading it without fear of reprisal.

Please stand and honor AMERICA for the playing of our National Anthem...” are the words spoken by the PA Announcer before games.

Honoring America.

This country isn’t perfect. It never will be. Perfection is a goal that is unreachable. There will always be narrow-minded racists. There will always be bad people doing bad things to others. I hate to burst your bubble, but these things have been going on since humanity began. That’s who we are as humans. There is good and there is evil. That is never going to change. Ever.

The best we can do is learn from the mistakes of the past. We must rise above all of that and become better people because of it. We must learn and embrace our differences. We can’t all be in agreement over everything. Sometimes you have to learn to compromise. Otherwise, nothing will ever get accomplished.

Yes, there are bad cops out there. There are also bad doctors, lawyers, and even bad football players out there.

But I refuse to let the actions of the few outweigh the actions of the majority.

Aaron Hernandez and O.J. Simpson were involved in murders. Am I to categorize all football players as killers or thugs because of their actions off the field of play?


Have there been bad police shootings? Yes. The sad and sick thing is, the mainstream media will only fan the flames when it is a black person being shot by a white officer. Much of the divide and discord in this country is brought upon by leeches in the media who know ratings equal money, and nothing brings ratings quite like race baiting. People need to stop being tricked into this.

Example from last week. The headlines read, “Armed LGBT Student Leader Shot By Georgia Police.”

Did you notice it didn’t say ‘White Man Shot By White Officer’…? Of course not. The story was gone in a day and that was that. If it were reversed. and it was a black kid shot, I can guarantee that headline would’ve read ‘Black Armed LGBT Student Leader Shot By White Policewoman’. Why? To keep us divided, that’s why.

We, as a country, have allowed ourselves to be suckered into being divided over every issue imaginable, and now it’s even leaked into the sports world. Division keeps us distracted and fighting among ourselves, while the 1% laugh their way to the bank with our money and resources.

Wake up! Study an issue from all sides, not just your own, or the station that only broadcasts what you want to hear.

This is not a racist country. We are not a nation of oppressed people. We will be if we allow this country to continue down the path it’s headed. Opportunities are everywhere, but you have to work for them. It can’t be handed to you. You are entitled to nothing but the hard work put forth by your own self. It’s life, and it’s unfair sometimes, and just like in sports, you can do all of the right things and still fail.

I stand for the National Anthem because I believe in this country and out of respect for those who can’t stand anymore in the military because they were brought home in a casket draped by that very flag that flies high above every stadium and arena.

Most pro athletes are very well paid. They live in a world normal people can’t even comprehend. There’s no living week to week, worrying if they can put food on the table for their children or pay all of the utilities. If they get sick, they have great health care. They have multiple cars and are looked at as role models. Unless they are morons blowing money on strippers, both they and their families are set for generations.

Their celebrity and the power to have their voice heard by the world can be put to good use. They have the ability, the financial resources, and the stage to bring people of all backgrounds together, instead of dividing us all.

This is where pro athletes can make a difference.

Many of these same athletes came from nothing. They came from the hood where sometimes your choice was to become a drug dealer or a ball player. They wanted out, so they took advantage of their God-given abilities and made their lives one for the better.

I get that athletes want to try and be heard for a cause, but there are better ways to do it. Pissing off half your fans aren’t a good idea. Michael Jordan stayed out of politics as he once said, “Republicans buy tennis shoes, too.”

If athletes truly want to make a difference and have their voices heard, don’t take a knee during the anthem. Do something about it in the real world. Don’t divide. UNITE!

If the issues are about perceived racial injustice and police brutality, then arrange fundraisers or create awareness among the very people you say are oppressed and the police in the same communities. Bring them together in every city in the United States. Have an open forum where you can debate and talk about the issues that both sides encounter every day. The truth hurts sometimes, but it’s better said out loud instead of being hidden away for fear of political correctness. Educate both sides on why they are always in opposition.

Police, especially in high-crime areas, have an unimaginable job. Most of them don’t know if they will make it home that night. After awhile, they become numb to it all. Everyone becomes the enemy. Everyone is seen as a criminal. When all you ever see is bloodshed from gang activity, you forget that there are actually many great people who live in those neighborhoods that want nothing of it. The very people who live there also wonder if they will make it through the day without being shot or mugged. They lose hope. Then they look at all police as the enemy for being racially profiled, and police see all of them as the enemy in patrolling those bad areas. It’s an endless vicious cycle that has to be stopped. It’s a shame that people are forced to live in fear of each other.

Those athletes from those very same hoods can make a difference, and even the ones who aren’t can, too. They can use their resources to advocate for a better educational system. They can show the people who live there to be proud and stand up for their streets and rid the corners of gangs and drug dealers that pollute the young minds that live and go to school there. They can educate young men to believe in education, faith, and family. They can help create new role models within the community, both from the people who live there, and the ones sworn to protect it wearing a uniform.

Don’t tell me it cannot be done. FIND A WAY. If you believe in something, you’ll make it work.

Nothing will ever change unless you have two sides in agreement. Work together to make these neighborhoods safe for all and provide hope for future generations.

We already have fallout from yesterday’s events in Chicago. Ben Roethlisberger released the following statement on his website on Monday:

“I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem yesterday. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.

“As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.

“I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.”

Honestly, as an American and a sports fan, I’m drained. I’m sick of all the bickering and nonsense. We all need to have an open mind in fixing the issues that are destroying the fabric of America. Some people may never forgive the Steelers for their actions yesterday, but that’s not the route to go. We all have to work in unison to make it work.

It won’t be easy, but every single American needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “How can I change the world for the better?”

Stop whining about everything, and make a difference. Come together as Americans, as one team, with one goal, to live up to the ideals that flag and country stand for. Hate will get you nowhere.

Stop self-segregating yourselves. Be proud of your heritage and background, but also remember at the end of the day that we all share one common bond in being Americans.

United we stand, divided we fall. The choice is yours America.




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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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