Why the Right to Peaceful Protest Should be Honored, Respected

The following is something I’ve been reflecting on for a little over a week. I usually make it a point to keep both my articles and my Twitter feed relatively free of political matter, but with the atmosphere of the American athletic world being in its current state, this is something I feel need to be said.

When I was little, my father was in the United States Army. He, like his brother, his father, and even his grandfather, felt that it was imperative that he served his country. It wasn’t a matter of life choices; rather, he felt that it was his duty as an American. Serve your country. Defend our nation. So when I was little, he taught me to love words like “honor,” “duty,” and “freedom.” To this day those words never fail to give me a certain sense of awe because of what they entail. So in terms of the National Anthem, I will stand at attention.


As an American, I’m aware that we’ve been bestowed rights that cannot be found anywhere else, such as the right to peaceful protest. It is an unalienable right, a right that many of our servicemen fought for and many of them died for. They died for the right for us to disagree, to demonstrate peacefully, to essentially have different viewpoints without fear of reprimand. Nothing can or will change that, including whoever holds the seat in the Oval Office.

That said, comments from President Trump as well as longtime NASCAR owners, Richard Childress and Richard Petty, in regards to reprimanding those who do not stand for the anthem served to throw the sport into turmoil. Many in the NASCAR community agree with the comments made by Trump, Childress, and Petty, that whoever refuses to stand for the anthem should be fired. It has made a volatile situation, first started in the NFL, worse. Many in the NASCAR community also believe that these comments did more harm than good for the sport’s image, an image it has tried to shed and has only marginally succeeded.

We are a house divided, and that includes the sports world, and that includes NASCAR. We are willfully divided, and it also seems we are also willingly overlooking our responsibilities as Americans. Let me ask this: What’s the percentage in being this divided? What’s to be gained? It isn’t about “political correctness,” as this is too defined an issue for such a vague and small term. This isn’t about Liberalism/Conservatism, as (like it or not) we all sleep under the same American flag and sit or park next to each other at the track.

This isn’t about disrespecting the American flag, either. Believe it or not, we disrespect the flag in our everyday life quite frequently. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the below regarding the U.S. Flag Code (4 U.S. Code § 8 – Respect for flag) and see if you don’t recognize a thing or two.

  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it or attached to it.
  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

Look, I’m a white, working-class American. I’m probably the least-qualified individual when it comes to talking issues of race or racial inequality, but I’m not so ignorant as to call a minority’s issues baseless or non-existent. I’m not so ignorant as to disbelieve there are some seriously wrong things going on in this country regarding minorities. I’m not one to assume the mind of someone of a different ethnicity, and have the temerity to dismiss their claims.

So with that said, if they believe something is seriously wrong, why shouldn’t they peacefully protest? This isn’t like the Ferguson, Missouri riots. No structures are being demolished in Colin Kaepernick’s name or Steph Curry’s refusal to visit the White House. Instead, NFL teams are linking arms and taking knees during the anthem, showing both respect and unity, or some of them are even just sitting in the locker room during the anthem, which also happened to be a common practice as early as 2008.

The rights of your fellow Americans transcend anything some media outlet could ever say or anything the Oval Office could ever assert. Why not acknowledge that? You may disagree, you may disregard, you may not even understand, but as an American shouldn’t the rights of your fellow Americans be paramount? Remember, many men and women both fought and died for us to have these rights…what is more American than exercising these rights? What would make more sense, for that matter, to widen this divide, or to honor those rights bestowed upon us the day we were born as Americans?

We’re a different world now than we were in the post-9/11 days when every American everywhere stood side-by-side with their neighbors and embraced their differences. We were united and we were strong. Now we’re angry, quick to judge and condemn, and horrifically divided. That’s not of our ilk. That’s not our fabric. We’re better than this.

Sponsors can talk of pulling out because of the protests in the NFL. Childress, Petty, and others can condemn protesting employees and fire them until they’re blue in the face. President Trump will continue to call protesting athletes SOBs’. But ask this: As an American, will you let their words affect how you conduct yourself against your neighbor’s difference of opinion? The answer is yours and yours alone. But as for me, as an American, I will continue to stand during the National Anthem and salute the troops. As an American, I will also defend to the death my neighbor’s right to freely and peacefully protest.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Joseph Shelton
Husband to Stacie and Daddy to Dexter, Aeris, Meredith, and furbabies Lola and Tiny. Ardent race fan and serious Sooner football lover.

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