I woke up the morning of September 11th and scrolled through the news feed on my phone.
Acknowledging the 19th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, I zoned in on a story that did not receive widespread attention. It centered around the start of football season in America and a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans and an action that left a disheartening shadow.
At this game, during the national anthem, the Kansas City team chose to link arms in unity against systemic racism, in their own stadium with a home crowd. “Boo’s” were heard from some in the sparse crowd – fans booing a team’s decision to stand up for a cause, one that most likely had been felt by many on the team and by players of most professional sports teams across the country.
I despise booing. Having sat at Lambeau Field, watching the Green Bay Packers play lousy football, I never once uttered a boo. Not for any reason. When a team is down, do you kick them in the gut in the hopes they will play better? No. You either keep cheering or shut your trap.
The Kansas City story came after reading comments on Facebook regarding the Sunday game between the Packers and Minnesota Vikings. The comments were less about who would win the game, but rather the unforgiving sentiments of “how dare they address racism on the field, they are paid to play football,” or “this is not the time or place,” or “I will not be watching (protesting the protesting) if they are going to disrespect the flag.”
That last one. Disrespecting the flag.
Does it not register that the fans who call themselves Christians may be disrespecting their God? That there is no such thing as a right time or place to stand against racism, hatred and oppression? That they are not sharing the grace God has given them with people who are trying to make the world civilized for everyone?
Colin Kaepernick was the beginning of this movement four years ago. Fans boo’d him too, in an attempt to silence what made them uncomfortable. Taking a knee was not about the flag or military. Taking a knee was about a plea to extend love to a race that has had to endure pain and hardship for hundreds of years. If the country and the NFL would have embraced this action then, had begun to form lasting, permanent change, would we be in the situation we are today?
The recent boo’s tell me that it’s going to be a dicey season with those who want the status quo, to attend or watch a sporting event without being reminded of the threads of hate that permeate society. Christian or not, if the heart is for equality, acceptance and love of others, why would you try to drown that out with a negative voice?
On Sunday, my pastor spoke of counterfeit grace, “accepting a counterfeit version of what God has graciously given us.” He asked us to discern what is truth and what is fake in our faith. He spoke of not allowing carnal intelligence to distort God’s truth and that we can neither earn nor abuse his grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). Pastor Shawn told us that God’s grace does this thing for us – it cleans up our messes.
Booing abuses grace.
It denies love for our neighbors.
It adds to the mess.
Booing is a reflection of the unwillingness to comprehend the difference between a person who has the funds to buy a pricey ticket to a football game and the person who dies at the hands of systemic, evil hatred. This is why I am disheartened. Instead of being in a country that unifies, that protects their own no matter who they are, and that lifts up the “less than” much like Jesus did, we are becoming a country of division, hatred, political idolization, self-interest, and dispassionate, unaffected minds.
I know we are not all like this. We don’t all boo. I’d like to believe that there is a majority who choose to follow truth and, yet, my belief doesn’t stop the heavy heart, the anxiety, the sadness, the tears. I ache some days for the soul of this country and humanity.
Whether you have a religious faith or not, there is good in any form of compassionate grace. As a people, we forget how important it is to not only allow ourselves grace when we mess up, but to share it openly with others when they need it most.
Right now, the less fortunate, the oppressed and people of color need our grace, not our vile boo’s. The professional sports community is trying to help with that grace in their support and I encourage you to help as well. Any way possible.
Can you serve in your community?
Can you offer financial support?
Are you willing to link arms, kneel, or do whatever is needed to help fight racism?
Or will you sit in the stands and boo?
Over the last few months, I’ve had my eyes opened wide on the subject of racism through video, documentary, news articles and books. It’s a beginning for me, someone who is white, grew up in a white community, and has very few friends of color. I still don’t have a clue what it’s like to grow up black in this country and feel the fear and hatred, but I am determined to listen and learn. If you are interested in what I’ve watched and read so far, I am providing a few links. If you would like to have an extended conversation about racism to enlighten me further, please leave comments here and we can move forward via email or private messaging.
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Across that Bridge by John Lewis
I am Not Your Negro (available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling, YouTube)