EDITORIAL: If NFL players kneeled for veterans instead of racism, we’d be talking about heroes

Trump, and those who think American racism doesn’t warrant the spectacle of NFL kneeling and arm-holding, only underscores the protesters’ point of how critical their fight is by attempting to trivialize it

Consider the view from Aurora when watching the national Armageddon over the NFL kneeling protest angst.

If these football players were “taking a knee” to protest the fact that our military veterans get nothing in the way of the health care that they were promised, or that the U.S. military spends trillions on military contractors but relative pennies on the men and women who serve, or that thousands of homeless veterans are ignored even though their military service is often the cause of their homelessness, Trump would be tweeting about Hillary Clinton, and most of those aggravated by all this would be sharing social media memes supporting it.

It’s easy to understand the shamefulness and injustice of mistreating those who risk their lives to serve and protect us, and the need to hold the country accountable for it.

In Aurora, the sheer quantity of neighbors who have suffered from modern American racism, or come here to escape foreign regimes that pooh pooh the irreparable damage bigotry inflicts have long been a large part of the community vocabulary. It’s easy for most Aurora residents — vets, blacks, whites, conservatives and liberals — to at least look upon a constitutionally guaranteed, peaceful and dignified protest with at least interest, if not sympathy.

Because we are such a diverse mix in Aurora, the majority — but certainly not all — have moved far beyond the predictable knee-jerk reaction by President Donald Trump and millions of others.

Trump, and those who think American racism doesn’t warrant the spectacle of NFL kneeling and arm-holding, only underscores the protesters’ point of how critical their fight is by attempting to trivialize it.

They simply don’t understand, or care about, the cruelty, injustice and damage caused by bigotry, racism and hatred. To taunt these black athletes by mocking their “millionaire injustice” is just as insulting and inane as belittling John McCain for speaking out for veterans and soldiers because he’s now safe, wealthy and a celebrity lawmaker.

Even if a celebrity minority athlete is immune to American racism, which they’re not, why would it be dishonorable for them to draw attention to minorities who don’t have million-dollar NFL jobs to insulate them from the plight of millions of other minority Americans? How is that any different than the good a congressional veteran like Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman does for veterans and soldiers by raising awareness of their injustices?

Many apoplectic critics of athletes “taking a knee” harp about these protesters disrespecting the American flag, but they lament the loss of celebrating the enemy Confederate Flag and statues of long-dead enemies of the United States. They wear the U.S. flag as hats, shirts, swimming suits, underwear and jewelry. They emblazon it on beer cans, tail gates, motorcycle helmets and ATV seats and toilet tank covers.

They live by one standard and hold these celebrity football players to another. They take the game of football seriously, saying it should be exempt from any kind of protest, but they casually make their complaints about black athletes being out of line in complaining about racism. Football entertains. Racism kills. The spectacle and love for Tim Teebow shows where non-game tolerance lies among many fans.

For most white Americans, it’s difficult to imagine the fear many black Americans suffer when they’re confronted by police, even for innocuous reasons. We still live in a country where white supremacists publicly parade their vile, criminal philosophies and the United States president says there are many “good people” among them. We live in a country where office jokes and banter about minorities, gays and others are perfectly acceptable to many.

For those who suffer as the butt of the jokes, none of this funny nor is it grounds for apology or acquiescence.

Living in a community as diverse as Aurora has been a game-changing experience for thousands of white people. Attitudes for many have changed because the reality of inequality — the touchstone our nation was designed to address — is so easy to see.

More than 200 years of legislation, public marches and lost lives hasn’t cured America of racism, bigotry and hatred. If kneeling NFL players are able to wedge the problem into the American psyche, we should all be thankful. For those who don’t want to be confronted with the reality of racism or are themselves immutable bigots who dislike being called out, stop watching. Angst-free NFL football games are not a constitutional right — free speech and equality are.