I cover a lot of sporting events. It is a part of this job that I love.
When the National Anthem is played at those events, I stand at attention. When I am wearing a hat, I remove it out of respect for our nation's flag, the constitution it represents and the freedom it has allowed me as a person who exercises First Amendment rights every day at work.
I have written stories about men and women who have fought for that flag and those rights from WWII vets to those who still fight today.
In 25 years working in journalism, I have worked with some of the most honorable people you will meet. Many of them wear a badge and dedicate their lives to keeping people safe.
I have also met a few bad apples along the way. No one hates those bad apples more than the honorable members of the law enforcement community whose sterling reputations are tarnished by someone who thought wearing that badge was just a job and compromised their own morals, ethics and common decency.
As a journalist, I could have overlooked the actions of the bad apples to protect the reputations of those who would have their badges unfairly tarnished by the actions of others.
But that wouldn't have been the right thing to do. Criminals who don't wear badges make headlines and that means all criminals have to make headlines.
I know many of the cops I worked with every day wished those stories didn't have to run. I didn't enjoy running them. But we all understood it had to happen.
That is why I understand the protests of the athletes who kneel during the National Anthem. They aren't protesting the heroes who fight wars to preserve truth, justice and the American way. They aren't protesting the cops who work tirelessly to keep communities safe.
They are protesting the fact that people of color have been killed by law enforcement officers who were either biased by racial differences or overreacting to an irrational fear of those victims because of their color.
President Donald Trump recently said during a campaign stop for an Alabama Senate candidate that he would like to see owners fire these "sons of bitches" who kneel before games.
One presidential bootlicker, Joe Walsh, tweeted, "If you're a black multi millionaire, and you call America racist, you're wrong. And ungrateful."
I feel like saying the president and his supporters on this issue are wrong is unnecessary, but it seems to be necessary.
They are, in fact, blatantly and alarmingly wrong.
Being black multi-millionaires, these players know that if they weren't bigger, stronger and faster than other black men, they could be the next victim in the next story. They are millionaires and have the ability to live in gated communities. Many of them came from very different backgrounds and they protest on behalf of their friends and family who are still living in the same places and socio-economic conditions they escaped.
They aren't multi-millionaires because of America's racial tolerance and fairness. They are millionaires because their talents make them valuable to a billionaire owner who can leverage their talents to entertain people and grow their own empires.
I'm sure many people want to ignore the fact that the same people who spent the past few weeks defending the valid First Amendment rights of white supremacists to engage in public hate speech are now trying to suppress the valid First Amendment rights of black men to protest unjust treatment of people of color by people paid to keep the peace.
You can criticize the actions of black people without being a racist. You can't defend the alt right and attack black protesters without showing some of the cards in your hand.
As many have pointed out, these protests are no more about the flag or the military than Rosa Parks' protest was against public transportation.
An American president should hear the concerns of those players who are taking a knee and try to find a way to craft a solution to an obvious problem. Trump could have invited them to stand for the National Anthem as he stood alongside them in solidarity.
Instead, he wanted those pointing out problems to be fired. That behavior encourages and emboldens those who harbor bad intentions.
Trump could have owned this issue and been a part of the solution. Instead he and his supporters stoke the racial fires that are burning bright in many areas of this country.
The answer to these protests is an effort to increase equal access to the rights and freedoms this country offers and its flag represents. I understand why the players are protesting.
I wish we had leadership willing to fight to make the protests unnecessary rather than trying to silence people who speak uncomfortable truths.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at kent.bush@news-star.