I haven't walked a mile in Preston Brown's shoes.
I never will.
Still, I wish he would have handled things a little differently on Saturday afternoon.
Brown and his assistant coaches on the Woodrow Wilson High School football team decided to take a knee during the national anthem before the season opener vs. Highland.
Almost all of Woodrow Wilson's players followed their lead.
Brown said after the game that he was trying to make a statement about "oppression" and "social injustice."
He said that his experiences as a youngster growing up in Camden, as a student-athlete at Tulane University in New Orleans and as a coach and educator in his hometown inspired him to take action.
Brown said he didn't tell his players to kneel. He said the athletes made the decision on their own.
That's where I wish he would have been a little more proactive.
I wish he would have told his players -- and the cheerleaders and team managers and ball boys -- to stand along the sideline for the national anthem.
I wish he would have told them that he would kneel in front of them.
I wish he would have told them that he is older than them and much more equipped make such an important decision.
I wish he would have told them that he is 32 years old, and has been all over the country, and has the education and experience and perspective to choose whether to stand or kneel or sit during the national anthem.
I wish he would have told them that he's a grown man and that they are teenagers.
I wish he would have told them that he knows they have experienced things in their lives that have felt like oppression and social injustice.
I wish he would have told them that he knows they often are angry and frustrated because he was angry and frustrated at times when he was a teenager, and living in Camden, and wearing the black-and-orange uniform of the Woodrow Wilson High School football team.
I wish he would have told them that things are complicated, that the world is filled with all sorts of nuances and shades of gray and that they have not lived long enough to fully appreciate that.
I wish he would have told them to learn from his action, to try to understand what it means to see a grown man taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem and still telling people that he "loves America" and "loves our military."
I wish he would have told them to talk about it among themselves, and with their families, and with their teachers when they return to school on Monday morning.
I wish he would have told them that he hoped when they were adults they would feel as strongly about things as he does, and feel as determined as he does to draw attention to important issues and be willing to stand up (or kneel down) for their beliefs.
I wish he would have told them they weren't ready to do that yet, because they are still children.
I wish he would have told them to stand along the line during the song and then go play football.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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