I am writing this letter during the Broncos v. Bills game as, following the lead of many of your players, I decided to take a knee on Broncos football. That is to say I opted not to watch the game. Allow me to explain why.
Some background. I was raised in Colorado and have enjoyed attending many Broncos games over the years. I am a third-generation military veteran, having served on ships in literally every ocean of the world - as two of our sons did. I am a father with children and grandchildren being raised in Colorado. I am a senior executive for a large business with 200 employees around the state. I have served on the board or as chairman of a number of community organizations. All these perspectives and 60 years blend in shaping my comments below.
One of the great strengths of our nation is how we value and protect many freedoms, including the freedom of speech.
Diversity in thought and expression is part of what makes our society what it is, and tolerance of these ideas gives us a richer mix of people and culture. So it is I take no issue with your players having their views - much as I have mine. But I take great issue with any of your players using the stage of entertainment on which they are privileged to stand to both express their personal view and show such great disrespect to our flag. Let them do it on their own time, in another venue, and on someone else's nickel - it won't be mine.
The irony to me is that your players' denigration of our national ensign is actually counterproductive. Rather than call my attention to the issues about which they are concerned, it shines a light on their ignorance of and disrespect for all that is right and good about this country. Better that they should stand tall as the flag is paraded and the national anthem sung, thankful that they live in a country where they can make their voices heard. This is not to say that all is well with the USA - we have innumerable challenges and inequities, and I applaud those who want to help forge solutions. Your players' very public irreverence for our country and disparagement of our flag is neither constructive nor appreciated.
The slippery slope, which I humbly suggest you and some of your NFL peers are sliding down, is to rationalize your players' abhorrent behavior. Expressions like "they don't represent the organization," or "they are free to express how they feel so long as it not a distraction from the team's mission of winning football games" are equivocations that dodge a responsibility to stand for something and act. You are what you tolerate, and you should not tolerate such humiliation and embarrassment at the hands of your employees when they are on the job.
One of our grandsons is playing his second year of flag football - he loves the sport, and he's good at it. For his 8th birthday, I told him I would take him and one of his teammates to a football game this fall - thinking Broncos or Air Force, as we live in Colorado Springs. We accomplished that yesterday, watching the Falcons lose a tough game to San Diego State in a driving, cold rain. It was truly miserable, including an 88-minute weather delay. As all Air Force games do, this one began with a march-on of the cadet wing and the playing of the national anthem with the color guard in the middle of the field. The boys stood up, removed their hats, and put their hands over their hearts even as the rain pelted us. Nobody took a knee ... on the field or in the stands. While the Falcons were unable to secure victory, I took such pride in their effort and demeanor.
They are the role models I hope all our grandchildren aspire to as their ideas of career and service begin to take shape in the years ahead. I could have taken them to a Broncos game, but I know now I made the right choice.
We're better than this as a country. The Broncos should be better than this. My hope is you bring all your employees to understand their proper roles and evidence a regard for this nation and its flag that is owed.
Matt Coleman is president of Colorado Market HUB International Insurance Services.