Washington Redskins team members kneel
Washington Redskins team members kneel during the national anthem on Sept. 28. Photo by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

By Stephanie Brown

All citizens of this nation have the right to speak openly and honestly about their beliefs. The Constitution guarantees our right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. It is one of the many qualities of our nation that differentiate us as a resounding beacon of liberty.

That being said, with great privilege comes great responsibility. We should not condone the actions of professional athletes, particularly those in the National Football League, who abuse the platform of their celebrity in front of millions of people, by refusing to stand with their teammates and the nation to honor our flag and our country.

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Kneeling down, while others are standing in unison, sends the wrong message. Instead we need to stand together. We stand, not only to pay homage and honor the millions of men and women who have served and sacrificed their lives for our country, but also to honor a country that offers unparalleled opportunity, prosperity, safety, security and freedom. By standing together, we stand to preserve our values, beliefs, dreams and integrity to continue to create a brighter and better future.

Alternatively, by taking a knee, you display an act of egotism. When you kneel, you are not only dishonoring our flag, but you are disrespecting your fans, your teammates, and every citizen of the United States of America, including our military. You must remember that to be an athlete in the United States is a privilege. You get paid millions of dollars to play a game, while the average compensation of an active duty soldier is only $40,000 per year.

Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown

You are fortunate to never know the amount of hard work, sacrifice, sweat, blood, tears and death that occurs daily to protect your freedom. You have no idea what it is like to “hold the line,” go to battlefield, and truly look your enemy in the eye. At the end of the day, you are measured by a win or a loss. In war, it’s life or death.

So to all of the athletes in the world, this is America’s message to you: remember freedom isn’t FREE. There is a cost. Men and women sacrifice their lives daily to protect ALL lives so that we may enjoy freedom. Unlike you, a true man in uniform rises up. He shows up every single day to honor our flag and our country. He fights to protect his loved ones, family, friends and people such as yourself whom he has never met before. A true man has values. Gratitude. Integrity. And most importantly, a true man loves this country so much that he is willing to sacrifice his own life for it.

The best advice for you: stand up. Stand up and put your hand over your heart and fight for what is right and for what you believe in. Stand up to serve something greater than yourself. Stand up for the ideals, values and principles upon which this country was founded. Stand up for current and former service members, especially those who can no longer stand for themselves.

Remember that our flag is a symbol. It represents honor, freedom, unity and respect, bringing our country and people together. It is not a source of division, but rather a universal emblem that draws us together in solidarity. The men and women who fight for it, do it not for themselves, but for their country, hence the Navy Motto “Non sibi sed patriae — Not for self, but for country.”

Now let us stand together.

God Bless America.

Stephanie Brown is vice president of marketing and public relations for the Manchester Financial Group in San Diego.