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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

American Flag

Video reviews are all the rage in college and professional sports these days.

Essentially, do-overs are now accepted as the norm. When a controversial play occurs, officials huddle around a video screen, watch the play from several different angles, then come to a definitive determination.

After reaching the decision, the lead official announces, “Upon further review …” and, then announces his decision.

In that spirit, I’d like to say, “Upon further review, SIU needs to change the announcement it makes prior to the playing of the national anthem at sporting events.”

The announcement was instituted after several cheerleaders joined Colin Kaepernick’s lead and began kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality in America. As can be expected, some fans complained, loudly, about the protests.

As a result, the university moved to keep the cheerleaders out of sight until the national anthem is concluded. The compromise offered by the university: An announcement is made asking fans to observe a moment of silence to dwell on the sacrifices made by our military and to reflect on ways we could make America a more inclusive nation.

The civil libertarian streak in me has never liked the idea of hiding the protest. However, initially, I felt the pre-anthem announcement took a conciliatory tone and delivered an inclusive message.

Unfortunately, that moment of silence kicked my mind into gear. With each passing game, with each passing moment of silence, I grew more uncomfortable. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, it dawned on me — the American flag symbolizes the rights and ideals guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The flag is not the symbol of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps. Each branch of the service has its own flag. Instead, the military serves under the Stars and Stripes, protecting not the flag, but the country and ideals it stands for.

This is not a slam at the military. I, we, are greatly indebted to the men and women who willingly risked their lives for our way of life since this country was just the vision of dreamers yearning for their freedom. I would salute all members of the military, but I haven’t earned that right — I never served.

But, now as I observe that moment of silence, I wonder if our founding fathers would approve of that emphasis on the military. It was the distrust of a national army that gave us The Second Amendment, the amendment that calls for a well-regulated militia.

There seems to be a movement afoot in the country that confuses patriotism with nationalism. Patriotism is something we should all revel in. The United States of America is far from perfect, but the ideals and principles on which this country was founded have produced a stable, prosperous society in which we strive from equal treatment of all citizens.

There has been an alarming meme making the rounds on the internet recently. To paraphrase, it says unless you have shown you are willing to die for the country, you haven’t earned the right to criticize. That’s a horrifying notion that would have appalled the founding fathers.

We do not have levels of citizenship in this nation. Neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights makes any caveats. The basic rights in those documents are guaranteed for all citizens.

The solution — don’t omit the military in the announcement, broaden the horizon. Let’s observe a moment of silence and reflection for the men and women in uniform, the members of our diplomatic corps, the farmers that produce our food, the teachers that prepare our children to thrive and flourish, the truck driver, the journalist, the entrepreneur, the miner, the doctor and the lawyer.

All of us, each of us — that’s what makes America great.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088. On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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