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Our own history shows why the NFL's new anthem policy is incredibly unpatriotic.

The decision comes on the heels of months of debate on who gets the right to protest, and where.

Our own history shows why the NFL's new anthem policy is incredibly unpatriotic.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Some pretty unreal news is sweeping the sports world.

NFL owners approved a national anthem policy that requires players to stand on the football field during the national anthem.  

According to officials, the policy was a unanimous decision from NFL owners.  


The policy requires players to stand on the field, but allows them to remain in the locker room during the anthem if they so choose. Should players kneel during the anthem, their team will be fined.

The law, which is a pretty blatant infringement on the First Amendment right to protest or peacefully assemble, was met with outrage from celebrities, academics, and citizens around the country.

The decision comes on the heels of months of debate on who gets the right to protest, and where.

When former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 after multiple unarmed black men were shot and killed by police officers, league owners were enraged. His peaceful, silent protest against police brutality spurred outrage from mostly white NFL fans.

Photo by  Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

In spite of pushback from audiences, the NFL protests continued to gain traction as predominate black players from teams like the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos joined in the protest in their own ways. And they weren't the only ones.  

Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images.

NBA star LeBron James wore an "I Can't Breathe" back in 2014, and WNBA players have peacefully stood against injustice for years, using their status as prominent athletes to raise awareness on important issues.

NFL leaders attempted to reprimand the players through various tactics — perhaps most notably blackballing Kaepernick — but players have continued to remain true to their rights as American citizens and the root of American values: standing up for what one believes is right. And some NFL leaders, like Jets owner Christopher Johnson, have already pledged to support players who continue to do so.

Yet, overall, the NFL has made it clear that this value is only a privilege of those deemed "worthy" of a right to protest, a reality black protestors across the U.S. are all too familiar with.

When Muhammad Ali protested the Vietnam War by refusing to enlist, his boxing license was suspended in New York the same day, along with his champion title. When Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested America's treatment of black Americans in the 1960s by raising their fists on the Olympic podium, they were stripped of their medals as white audiences spewed endless hatred. Perhaps most notably, Martin Luther King Jr.'s unwavering commitment to peaceful protest led to endless character attacks from the government, unwarranted stints in jail, and ultimately, his assassination.    

Time and time again, black leaders, athletes, celebrities, and other visible faces speak up in the face of injustice, only to be put in a ludicrous box of criminality by white Americans. Decades after they speak up, our country turns them into martyrs, chanting about the grandness of their fearlessness, and framing them as heroes in elementary school classrooms.

But black people deserve that support more so much earlier on.

For years, America has had to relearn the hard lesson of actually living by the laws it claims to uphold, instead of only allowing the freedom of speech and right to protest to apply to people who are deemed "respectable" by those in power. But this nation doesn't have to be like this.

Photo by Drew AngererGetty Images.

The NFL can be a a league that abides by our nation's inherent laws and ethics of freedom of speech and assembly by ensuring that those apply to everyone on the field.

They can listen to what black people are saying when they declare that black lives matter. They can pay attention to the reasons behind football players' protest, and they can uplift athletes who are using their power for good now instead of making them heroes when it's too late. And we can help them do it.

We can be better as sports fans, as current events commentators, and as Americans by allowing citizens of color to protest in their own, peaceful ways.

We have to. Our nation's soul depends on it.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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