Just-My-Take-If some moron wants to burn an American flag and whizz on the ashes, I will set up a perimeter and let that misguided dumbass do their thing because that, no matter how heinous you think it is, is a purely American act of defiance.

Our country was literally founded on acts of defiance, and that’s what makes us entirely unique in the world. Whether you like it or not, that “freedom” people so casually talk about is displayed in sometimes unpleasant acts. As illogical as it is to anyone who loves the United States, dissent about the country we love is the purest form of American pride.

No matter how heinous you feel about something like burning a flag or not standing for the national anthem, it is a fundamental right for a citizen to do so. You don’t have to like it. Far from it. But you damn well better acknowledge their right to do it.

That’s why this national anthem controversy is so stupid. There are far worse things going on in the world that make this seem trivial at best. It’s a moment for people who are incapable of looking at any larger problems to beat their chests over the very broad concept of patriotism because someone isn’t doing what’s expected of them.

I always stand and take my hat off during the national anthem at sporting events because I believe, despite its many flaws, the United States is the greatest country in the world. It makes me sick that my taxes pay for drone strikes that kill kids in Syria, and I’m nauseous over the fact that in the greatest country in the world, some of our citizens are treated like garbage. I still love this country.

Football players are our gladiators and for several of them to make statements about race and injustice in America is very hard to swallow for the people who only see them as their Sunday entertainment. For these brain damaged robots to have an opinion about something unpleasant is very problematic for the person who sees them as a replaceable commodity.

A lot of people look at what Colin Kaepernick and Denver’s own Brandon Marshall are doing as high treason because they should be grateful for the highly paid position they enjoy as professional football players. For these athletes to do anything but jump for the enjoyment of Joe Six Pack, is pure treachery.

The mere notion that they can’t have an opinion is dehumanizing. But, for the weekend warrior who sees the flag in black and white —not red, white and blue—the idea that a black man who has been blessed to play football for millions of dollars can be ungrateful to the country that provided that opportunity is a bitter pill.

Colin Kaepernick gives douchebags a bad name, so he was always a bad example as someone to carry this torch. Brandon Marshall, though, is a beloved member of our Denver Broncos. Doesn’t he deserve to at least be heard out? If you cheered him on when he was helping to win you a Super Bowl, you owe him that much. And since he’s demonstrated his willingness to talk with civic leaders about his stance and donate to causes in relation to his beliefs, his money is where his mouth is. If he doesn’t deserve at least the courtesy of a listen from Broncos Country, then we’ve failed as the supposed democratic society we claim to be.

The NFL is complicit in throwing gas on this fire. In the most recent Monday Night Football game, a gleeful idiot ran onto the field, and the network immediately cut away not to show the guy running on the field as their way of discouraging this act. But when the national anthem was played during last week’s NFL games, the camera made sure the catch all of the kneeling “traitors.” If the NFL didn’t want to encourage this, you’d never see it happen.

The NFL certainly could have kept the cameras off of these players to keep the flames down, but they chose to fan them because it sells. It gets people riled up and keeps eyes squarely on the NFL. This controversy is moving product. Kaepernick’s jersey is a best seller right now. Do you think the overly patriotic owners who’ve denounced him are turning that money down? Hell no. These are the same people who charge the US government, and by extension, you, to “honor” the troops before every game. It’s a deceitful sham masquerading as a noble act, and that should sicken you way more than a handful of US citizens exercising their constitutional right to peacefully protest.

Your buttons are constantly being pushed whether you know it or not. Don’t think for one moment there isn’t someone who’s come up with a way to capitalize on drunken sports fan outrage the second it moves the needle. You’re now being sold that outrage when there probably doesn’t need to be any.

Fans should take the time to find out what these players are actually protesting before denouncing them as traitors. You may not agree, but you can at least appreciate why they would act in a way so socially verboten for something they believe in. Because that, along with football, is truly the American way.

John Reidy

John Reidy has lived in Denver most of his life and had a religious conversion to being a Denver sports fan when the Broncos lost Super Bowl XXIV. And he’s been on that sad, slow train ever since. He is a founding member of SouthStandsDenver.com, coined the term “fanalyst” and has learned to not swear as much in his writing.