Stan Van Gundy: Athletes protesting inequality are "Role Models of American Patriotism"

Detroit Pistons Introduce Stan Van Gundy

Detroit Pistons Introduce Stan Van Gundy

On Tuesday, the Detroit Pistons coach wrote an article in Time in support of athletes in the WNBA and NFL who made their statement by kneeling during the national anthem.

"In a time where bigotry seems on the rise and commitment to racial equality on the decline", Van Gundy wrote", I have an obligation as a citizen to speak out and to support, in any way possible, those courageous and patriotic athletes who are working to bring change to our country.

"Nationalism, he said, is supporting your country no matter what, right or wrong".

"Honoring America has to mean much, much more than standing at attention for a song", Van Gundy wrote.

Public conversation around the anthem protests has frequently been reduced to shouting over the optics and significance of the anthem itself, rather than the meaning of the actual protests.

The issue was brought back to the forefront in September when U.S. President Donald Trump suggested National Football League owners should fire players who don't stand for the anthem. "When these professional athletes protest during the anthem, they are exercising one of the very freedoms for which our military men and women fought so valiantly, thus honoring our highest values and, in turn, those who have fought for them". Because of this "controversy", people are forgetting what these protestors are trying to change. He said that "protest has almost always been the catalyst for meaningful change", adding, "And it has always made people uncomfortable". Van Gundy wrote. "Simply and succinctly: equality". Equal treatment by police and others in authority. "I'm really proud of guys who have spoken up". Those changes, according to the coach, are "focused on criminal justice reform" and include: changing harsh sentencing guidelines and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences; enacting clean slate laws; eliminating cash bail; reforming juvenile justice; and ending police brutality and racial bias in police departments. The 58-year-old coach said Dyson's talk helped him understand there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism - something that is overlooked by those who have criticized athletes who protest during the anthem.

"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 athletes could take the easy route and not [have] placed their livelihoods at risk by standing up for what they believe in".

In the great tradition of the civil rights movement, these athletes are using non-violent, peaceful protest to work toward specific changes they want to see in their communities and their country. Instead, they are risking their jobs to speak up for those who have no voice.

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