Anthem protests: We sure could use a Rick Monday

The news broke Monday morning that President Donald Trump had withdrawn his invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House on Tuesday.  The White House had learned that approximately 80% of the team would skip this traditional event for sports champions.  It stands to reason that the president felt that, by snubbing this honor, the players hoped to turn it into a political statement, and he wasn't having any part of it.

I am a lifelong Eagles fan.  I saw something special in this team last season, and I strove to block out all the noise generated in response to the various player protests that took place every Sunday during the National Anthem.  I just wanted them to go away so we could enjoy our football.

My faith in my hometown team was rewarded.  Despite their underdog status throughout the playoffs, and ultimately matching up in Super Bowl 52 against the New England Patriots – perhaps the greatest football dynasty in history – and all the while led by their backup quarterback, the Eagles pulled off the impossible and won it all.  It was Philadelphia's first Super Bowl victory.

Monday morning, right around the time the news broke about the canceled visit, I was walking into the Veterans Administration hospital in Philadelphia with my father.  The Eagles were well represented in the sea of humanity entering and leaving the main entrance, green Eagles t-shirts and jerseys of current players and stars from bygone eras, all proudly donned by these Philly-area veterans before leaving their homes that morning. 

One man stood out above this swirling mass – an elderly black man.  He walked slowly, yet he wasn't hunched over his cane like so many of his peers; he stood straight and dignified.  More than dignified – he was defiant.  He wore a black baseball cap, presumably with the name of the ship or division in which he had served, but before I could read those gold letters, my eyes were drawn to the front of his black t-shirt.  There, three words were printed over the American flag...

Respect the Flag.

It's as simple as that...because it's what binds us together, and anything less is unacceptable.

It's the line that you cannot, must not cross.

Perhaps if our beloved professional athletes spent a little time at the V.A. hospital, watching our veterans – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, men, women, young, old – hobble about on canes, walkers, prosthetic limbs, or passively shuttled in wheelchairs, lost in the maze that is the V.A., trying to get to their appointments on time, hoping there won't be any unresolved red tape this time, that they will get to see their doctor – perhaps they'd find another medium to use as a platform for whatever they want to protest.  Not the Anthem, and not the Flag.

Yesterday was D-Day.  It's been 74 years since our soldiers, displaying a bravery I can't even fathom, emerged from their landing crafts under heavy fire and stormed beaches an ocean away to liberate a continent.  I see some duly noted mention of this in the media today, but it smacks of routine – perhaps they are more focused on milking the last bit of outrage they can from this latest Trump versus the National Football League controversy.  More focused on driving the wedge in, hammering it in deeper, splitting us apart...

My own thoughts began to stray and eventually touched down on my recollections of a baseball player from yesteryear named Rick Monday.

Rick Monday was in center field for the Chicago Cubs back on April 25, 1976, when two men emerged from the stands and walked out on to the outfield grass with an American flag...and a can of lighter fluid and a pack of matches.

While Dodger Stadium watched in horror, ex-Marine Monday sprinted from his position and snatched the flag away just before the protesters were able to put flame to it.

Back in 1976, Monday said, "I've visited too many V.A. hospitals and seen too many kids who were mangled trying to protect what it stands for."

Forty years later, he noted, "What I knew was what they were doing was wrong then, and it's wrong today.  I had a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented[.] ... Maybe I was thinking about the drill instructors from boot camp.  I didn't want any of them saying, 'Marine, why did you stand by and watch those guys burn that American flag?'"

Where have you gone, Rick Monday?  Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Jim Sandell is a freelance writer from South Jersey, writing on music, travel, and America at www.jimsandell.com.

Image via YouTube.

The news broke Monday morning that President Donald Trump had withdrawn his invitation to the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to visit the White House on Tuesday.  The White House had learned that approximately 80% of the team would skip this traditional event for sports champions.  It stands to reason that the president felt that, by snubbing this honor, the players hoped to turn it into a political statement, and he wasn't having any part of it.

I am a lifelong Eagles fan.  I saw something special in this team last season, and I strove to block out all the noise generated in response to the various player protests that took place every Sunday during the National Anthem.  I just wanted them to go away so we could enjoy our football.

My faith in my hometown team was rewarded.  Despite their underdog status throughout the playoffs, and ultimately matching up in Super Bowl 52 against the New England Patriots – perhaps the greatest football dynasty in history – and all the while led by their backup quarterback, the Eagles pulled off the impossible and won it all.  It was Philadelphia's first Super Bowl victory.

Monday morning, right around the time the news broke about the canceled visit, I was walking into the Veterans Administration hospital in Philadelphia with my father.  The Eagles were well represented in the sea of humanity entering and leaving the main entrance, green Eagles t-shirts and jerseys of current players and stars from bygone eras, all proudly donned by these Philly-area veterans before leaving their homes that morning. 

One man stood out above this swirling mass – an elderly black man.  He walked slowly, yet he wasn't hunched over his cane like so many of his peers; he stood straight and dignified.  More than dignified – he was defiant.  He wore a black baseball cap, presumably with the name of the ship or division in which he had served, but before I could read those gold letters, my eyes were drawn to the front of his black t-shirt.  There, three words were printed over the American flag...

Respect the Flag.

It's as simple as that...because it's what binds us together, and anything less is unacceptable.

It's the line that you cannot, must not cross.

Perhaps if our beloved professional athletes spent a little time at the V.A. hospital, watching our veterans – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, men, women, young, old – hobble about on canes, walkers, prosthetic limbs, or passively shuttled in wheelchairs, lost in the maze that is the V.A., trying to get to their appointments on time, hoping there won't be any unresolved red tape this time, that they will get to see their doctor – perhaps they'd find another medium to use as a platform for whatever they want to protest.  Not the Anthem, and not the Flag.

Yesterday was D-Day.  It's been 74 years since our soldiers, displaying a bravery I can't even fathom, emerged from their landing crafts under heavy fire and stormed beaches an ocean away to liberate a continent.  I see some duly noted mention of this in the media today, but it smacks of routine – perhaps they are more focused on milking the last bit of outrage they can from this latest Trump versus the National Football League controversy.  More focused on driving the wedge in, hammering it in deeper, splitting us apart...

My own thoughts began to stray and eventually touched down on my recollections of a baseball player from yesteryear named Rick Monday.

Rick Monday was in center field for the Chicago Cubs back on April 25, 1976, when two men emerged from the stands and walked out on to the outfield grass with an American flag...and a can of lighter fluid and a pack of matches.

While Dodger Stadium watched in horror, ex-Marine Monday sprinted from his position and snatched the flag away just before the protesters were able to put flame to it.

Back in 1976, Monday said, "I've visited too many V.A. hospitals and seen too many kids who were mangled trying to protect what it stands for."

Forty years later, he noted, "What I knew was what they were doing was wrong then, and it's wrong today.  I had a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented[.] ... Maybe I was thinking about the drill instructors from boot camp.  I didn't want any of them saying, 'Marine, why did you stand by and watch those guys burn that American flag?'"

Where have you gone, Rick Monday?  Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...

Jim Sandell is a freelance writer from South Jersey, writing on music, travel, and America at www.jimsandell.com.

Image via YouTube.