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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.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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