What Trump and kneeling NFL players have in common (and why it's keeping us from finding a solution)

There are moments when things can get so heated, so polarized and so political that no matter what anyone says, things seem to get worse.

This is one of those moments.

Millionaires athletes are fighting with a billionaire president and most people who are neither of those would be hard-pressed to explain why.

The reason is that the fight has eclipsed the cause, and winning has been redefined as “not losing” instead of finding an actual solution.

One side makes the other side look bad, and then the volley is returned with more heat. All on social media in sound bites or in the middle of an anthem that is causing division when it was written to unite.

The fact that our National Anthem has become so divisive says a lot. But is anyone really hearing what it says?

I believe that what’s keeping us from finding any real progress as a country toward a solution to very real problems is the fact that the fighters – President Donald J. Trump and players in the NFL who have chosen to kneel or sit or not come out of the locker room during the National Anthem – have one very simple thing in common: bad delivery.

Thankfully (for me and for you), I’m not the President. Everything I say or post doesn’t get picked apart and scrutinized from every possible angle, and I’m glad. People who know me can also vouch for the fact that I am not a professional football player, so I don’t have a platform the size of many of the men who have been made famous by throwing, catching, running or kicking on Sundays. My joints are thankful for that (although my bank account sometimes isn’t).

But I am a leader, and what I know about leaders is that they carry 2 buckets with them at all times. One is filled with water and the other with gasoline. And smart leaders know which one to throw on fires. Someone has a passion to find the cure for cancer? Throw gas on that fire! Someone has an idea that can make your organization better? Throw gas on that all day long!

But situations that are already at the point of explosion? Things like racism, police brutality, social injustices? Smart leaders throw water on those fires, not to squelch them so that they don’t have to deal with them, but so that the root causes can be discovered, discussed and dealt with.

Calling NFL players who are protesting during the National Anthem a derogatory name (no matter how offensive that may be to you personally) is throwing the wrong bucket, and during a speech in Alabama, our President’s bad delivery caused the flames to go higher.

How much higher? From 6 protesting players to more than 200 protesting players in a week. Unfortunately, bad delivery seems to have muted their protest, too and resulted in even more gas on an already out of control fire.

To kneel, sit or refuse to even acknowledge the National Anthem and then say you aren’t protesting our country is a bad delivery. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the money. As the number of pretesting players rose, ratings for NFL games dropped – down 8% from one week earlier. The one member of the Pittsburgh Steelers who didn’t stay in the locker room – offensive guard Alejandro Villanueva – now wears the hottest jersey according to sales on the website for the largest retailer of sports merchandise.

Is it because he stood for racism and injustice? Of course not. It’s because the message heard by the majority of our nation wasn’t the same message that the protesting players were trying to send. They were mad at a President with bad delivery (and rightfully so), but their response was misunderstood because of their bad delivery.

Bad delivery will kill a good message, and that’s what both sides need to remember.

How you’re saying what you’re saying is making it hard to hear what you’re saying.

The message of the protest – disgust at what Trump said (and maybe at who Trump is) – got lost because of the moment of the protest. People simply can’t see past what looks like disrespect for our country, which – if you come full circle – is what got Trump elected as the 45th President of the United States.

I’m not so naive as to believe that simply being a “nicer” protester or a “better” speaker will fix the bad meal on the table, but I do believe that thinking through the approach and correcting the bad deliveries could get both sides to the table.

Are there real issues? Yes. Are racism, injustice, and bigotry worth fighting against? Without a doubt. Are patriotism and freedom worth fighting for? Absolutely.

But is the “he said, they kneeled” delivery deflecting our attention from the real fight? Sadly, I believe it is.

Hopefully, a couple hundred million Americans will read this, grab some water, and lead us toward a better tomorrow.


I’ve got a #missionmonday message for the #President and the #NFL (and all of us)

Posted by Paul Jenkins on Monday, September 25, 2017

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Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins is lead pastor of The Gathering, a community church located in beautiful downtown Albemarle, North Carolina. He's the author of God is My Air Traffic Controller and My Name's Not Lou. Paul is passionate about his wife, his 3 children, running, reading, coaching, leading people who are following Jesus, Swedish Fish and the Carolina Panthers.

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