Fox News Guest's Argument Against NFL Protests Is Peak Willful Ignorance

Lisa Giovinazzo suggested players "vocally tell the public" what they're protesting. But they have many times.

A “Fox & Friends” panelist said Tuesday that she’s fed up with NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem and thinks it’s time for them to explain what it is they’re protesting.

But multiple players have explained the gesture ― multiple times. The problem is that panelist Lisa Giovinazzo and others either aren’t listening or don’t care to know.

“I think honestly taking a knee maybe that isn’t enough for these players,” said Giovinazzo, a lawyer. “Maybe they should go beyond taking a knee and take a stand and vocally tell the public what it is that they’re supporting and what it is that they’re specifically protesting.”

In fact, participating athletes in several sports have been pretty clear that taking a knee is meant to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

Colin Kaepernick, who started the movement roughly a year ago when he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, opened up almost immediately about his reason for not standing during the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy. NFL player Eric Reid

Many of Kaepernick’s critics have argued that kneeling or sitting during the national anthem is disrespectful to the flag, the country, the military and first responders. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lashed out against the NFL protesters, calling them “disgraceful” on Tuesday.

“Many people have died ...  fighting for our country, for our flag,” the president said during a press conference. “They were fighting for our national anthem.”

Giovinazzao offered a similar sentiment.

“The one thing that we all do as Americans is we stand united during the anthem,” she said. “In that regard, I don’t know how anyone could support not standing during the anthem.”

But many veterans have stood up for the players’ right to peaceful protest, pointing out that they fought to defend the First Amendment. 

Kaepernick sat during “The Star-Spangled Banner” for three pre-season games before a meeting with former U.S. Army Green Beret and onetime NFL free agent Nate Boyer inspired him to “take a knee” instead. Boyer had initially been angered by the protest, but said he met with Kaepernick to understand more about the other man’s views. He said Kaepernick was “very receptive” to his perspective, too.

“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer told HBO’s Bryant Gumbel in an interview that aired last September. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.”

Then-teammates Colin Kaepernick (center) and Eric Reid knelt during the national anthem on Sept. 1, 2016. Former Green Beret
Then-teammates Colin Kaepernick (center) and Eric Reid knelt during the national anthem on Sept. 1, 2016. Former Green Beret Nate Boyer stood beside them in solidarity.

On Sept. 1, 2016, Kaepernick took a knee for the first time, along with teammate Eric Reid. Boyer stood next to them in a show of solidarity.

“We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture,” Reid wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times on Monday. “I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”

“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel,” Reid continued. “It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”

Giovinazzo also suggested on Tuesday that protesting players should maybe “raise awareness in a different way.” This is already happening. Kaepernick alone has donated $900,000 to organizations that fight oppression.

“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people,” Kaepernick told USA Today last September. “I have to help these communities.”

Since August of last year, hundreds of athletes across various sports have joined with Kaepernick in kneeling, sitting or raising a fist in protest during the national anthem. Over that same stretch of time, more than 220 black Americans were killed by police.

All of this information ― what these protests do and do not represent, and what in American society needs to change ― is readily available to anybody who is interested. Athletes have used a plethora of platforms, including TV and social media, to discuss the issues.

Although Giovinazzo claims not to know exactly what these players are protesting, she knows it’s “political” and she doesn’t “appreciate having to” engage in that type of conversation with her 10-year-old son while watching football. If she doesn’t have answers for her son, however, it’s probably because she doesn’t seem to be looking for them.

And so the cycle of willful ignorance continues.

Update: Wednesday ― In an email to HuffPost, Giovinazzo said she stands by her comments.

“Kneeling during the national anthem is not the proper forum” for advocacy and the protest has “done more to feed the media than it has to benefit its cause,” she wrote.

She also said she recognizes the existence of racial inequality and freedom of expression, but still believes NFL players should do more to raise awareness off the field.