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Football games and protest don't mix

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws against

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game on Sept. 20, 2020, in Houston. Credit: AP/Eric Christian Smith

This is to the Baltimore Ravens from one of your biggest fans. There are 168 hours in a week. I'm respectfully asking for just four of them.

The NFL has begun its 2020 season. Thank God. If we ever needed a break from the "real world," it's now when Americans are bombarded from every direction with the latest news of people suffering from a lethal once-in-a-century pandemic, racial discord and a red raw presidential election. We need a distraction, however short. A few moments to catch our breath, that's all.

The opening wins were amazing — the Jax-to-'Wood bomb against the Cleveland Browns and Mark Ingram's wildcat run against the Houston Texans were fabulous. (In other words, the long pass from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to "Hollywood" Brown against the Browns and running back Ingram's fourth quarter touchdown against the Texans.)

But prior to the games some of you knelt during the hoisting of the American flag and the playing of the national anthem to advocate for social justice. If you intend to continue this practice, please reconsider.

Sleep is restorative in the human body. Muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, growth hormone and immunity strengthening occur mostly or solely during sleep. But we need mental restoration as well. We can't maintain outrage for 168 hours straight every week.

You want to have a conversation about race? Can't think of a subject we've talked about more in the last 30 years, but fine, let's talk. My mind's open. I'm willing, no eager to listen and learn. We've got 164 hours. Just gimme four.

You want to demonstrate? Give me a sign. You want to yell? No problem. We're Americans, we shout a lot. You want to fire off a hundred examples of why this candidate or that candidate's [no good]? Great, I'm all ears. You have 164 hours. Just gimme four.

Ah, but you say the only way real change will occur is if we're all made to feel uncomfortable all the time, so a four-hour football game is the perfect opportunity to strike for social justice. Not really.

Do you honestly believe anyone watching is going to alter his or her views because players and coaches show disrespect to our nation's flag? Much more likely all sides will harden their position, and the chances of those productive conversations you want actually occurring will diminish.

Oh, but you explain that you're not really disrespecting the flag or the men and women in our military who have given their lives for their country. Or the police. You're simply supporting Black Lives Matter, even though the founder of what some have called the "Kneel the Flag" movement, Colin Kaepernick, is a former NFL star who, with no comment from the league, wore socks depicting police as pigs. You hasten to add that supporting Black Lives Matter doesn't mean you don't believe all Black lives matter, including the lives lost in Black on Black crime in cities like Chicago during the weekend following the horror that was death of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. Or David Dorn, a Black police officer killed during the Floyd riots. Do you kneel for them? Or only for Black lives taken by white police officers?

See, that's the problem with three word slogans like Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police. All fit neatly on signs and T-shirts, but leave a breathtakingly wide gulf for interpretation. The BLM leader in Philadelphia says defund means abolish the police in five years. Others claim defund means simply doing a better job of allocating police resources. Still others say defund means "reimagining" public safety. Reimagining? Seriously? Can you "imagine" a concept more ripe for clashes of interpretation, thus generating even greater potential for discord?

Since kneeling for the flag and anthem means vastly different things to different people, is this act going to advance the goal of social justice or exacerbate an already discordant environment that will do the opposite?

A humble suggestion. Let's talk, let's listen, let's condemn, let's praise, let's learn. Our ears and minds are open. We have 164 hours.

Just give us four to sit back, have a beer, watch the game and catch our breath.

Mike Pace is a former president of the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, school board. He currently resides in Florida, where he writes thriller novels. This piece was written for The Baltimore Sun.

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