Updated: Aug 14, 2020
An Open Letter to the Phoenix Suns
By Nathan Phelps
The following is an open letter to the Phoenix Suns and, by extension, any other teams that kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner and those who support that action.
Dear Phoenix Suns:
I've stood with you through thick and thin for 35 years. But this? This is too thick.
As the camera focused on my favorite hometown team before a game in the “Disney Bubble,” showing every last one of you taking a knee during the National Anthem, I felt part of me die and another part of me awaken, ready to fight back. So here I am, fighting back against you on the battlefield of ideas.
You kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest and bring attention to the racism that people of color endure. I would die for your right to do that, but that doesn't make it right. It's childish. It's selfish. It's foolish. It's damaging.
John Adams declared that he would repent in Heaven for ever taking half the pains he did to preserve our freedom if we didn’t make a good use of it. Taking a knee during the national anthem is something you are free to do, but what a deplorable use of your freedom it is.
Unity is an indispensable ingredient in the cure to racism in our nation. Sure, you felt unified as a team in the moment. But your Disney Bubble has proved an effective shield from more than just COVID-19; it has shielded you from an awareness of how divisive it is for you to kneel during the National Anthem. There are appropriate times for protest and there are appropriate times for unity. The National Anthem has always been a time for the latter. Until recently, no matter how bad things have gotten in our country, Americans have always been able to come together as a people and stand for the National Anthem. By doing so, people of all colors, ethnicities, political parties, religions, and backgrounds have united together through the expression of a common commitment to the ideals and values that the flag stands for.
Red, white, and blue represent courage, purity, and justice, respectively. Standing during the national anthem symbolizes, among other things, a commitment to those values and other American ideals, even though we inevitably and continually fall short of those ideals. Taking a knee indicates to me that you find American ideals no longer worth striving for. Your kneeling is an indication of ingratitude and an unawareness of the values that will bring healing to our divided nation.
Surely there are better ways to demonstrate against injustice, even by means of the National Anthem. Instead of kneeling down in irreverence for the flag, you should discover a way to renew your reverence for it. Sing along with the beloved hymn instead of staring down in shame. Sing out with smiles on your faces and tears in your eyes. Instead of demanding that the American people accept your show of contempt, demand that ALL of the verses of the Star-Spangled Banner be sung at every game in order to remind the people in this nation of the opportunity that we have to live as free men. Imagine the impact of all players on the court singing loud and proud after the performance of the first verse ends. How powerful such a scene would be! That would be courageous.
Now that you have made your statement that what the flag stands for is no longer worthy of being respected during the National Anthem, I ask you: when will it again be okay to stand during the National Anthem? What level of imperfection in our nation is acceptable to you? Perhaps even total perfection wouldn't be enough to convince you to stand for the National Anthem. After all, nothing can remove the blemish resulting from the fact that some of our nation's founders owned slaves - the unpardonable sin. Because in your eyes, the fact that our founding fathers were masters over some will forever outweigh the fact that it's thanks to them that hundreds of millions who came after them would be mastered by none.
The National Anthem calls for free men ever to "stand between their loved homes and the war's desolation." Now that you have drawn a line in the sand and taken a knee on the side of disgracefully dishonoring all that has been sacrificed on your behalf, I call on Americans everywhere to firmly stand in defense of American ideals against the desolation that your divisiveness leaves in its wake.