Sticking together is what teams do

Hank Hayes • Updated Sep 28, 2017 at 2:59 PM

KINGSPORT -– “Facebook is blowing up,” my wife, Sharon, reported to me last Sunday afternoon.

Yeah, you guessed it. NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem triggered a spirited social media debate. I bet a bunch of people got unfriended.

People were dug in. One faction was “They should stand for the flag and anthem or be cut.” The other was “They are protesting injustice and are correct to use their First Amendment rights.”

This issue had not gone away and was still lurking about.

But President Trump lit this national fire and poured gas on it with his campaign-style remarks in Alabama last week and subsequent Tweets. It went from some players taking a knee to whole teams taking a knee or staying in the locker room during the anthem.

NFL owners are probably thinking and even asking him: “Mr. President, please shut your mouth and Twitter account on this issue because it’s killing our business. It’s a huge distraction and has to be affecting play on the field.”

I’ll never be able to put myself in the shoes of an African-American who has faced injustice because I haven’t experienced injustice.

In the meantime, allow me to take you back in time for a moment.

Once upon a time in the early 1970s, I was a backup point guard for Tennessee High’s basketball team. We were about to take a road trip to Erwin and play Unicoi County High School. Erwin, at that time, did not have a good reputation for welcoming people of color.

The coaches had this message for all of the players, both white and black: Everyone needs to stay together. Do not stray. And we stayed together.

While the times and circumstances are completely different, I believe that’s what NFL coaches and players have decided.

They want to stay together.

My point is that whether facing a possible physical attack or a political attack, it’s a team’s tendency to stick together.

Hank Hayes covers politics and business for the Times-News. He can be reached at: hhayes@timesnews.net.