The weekend was filled with tension and controversy. It seems to be the rule of the day.
Dozens of professional football players took to their knees to express their concerns for the racial disparities that continue to ravage our nation. You may disagree with the cause of these disparities. 
No one can honestly disagree they exist.
Wealth as a measure of success and health for black households is a fraction of that for white families. Unemployment among African-Americans is dramatically higher than for whites. Black male high school graduates can expect to earn significantly less than white male dropouts, working the same jobs. The same relative disparity exists for blacks with college degrees and their white counterparts with no diplomas. The unfairness exhibited in the employment of African-American females shows an even greater disparity.
The re-segregation of schools is occurring across the nation, and African-American children are concentrated in largely-minority, often inner-city, and mostly poor schools.  Understandably, they are performing with scores far below suburban students.
Conflicts with law enforcement continue, and the number of unarmed black males killed by (usually) white officers continues to grow. The number is staggering. I am quick to offer my gratitude to police officers who put their lives on the line, daily. I am also honest enough to note that public evaluation of these incidents, even with video footage and “eye witnesses,” does not always adequately convey the complete real-time event, especially given the understandable fear and confusion that often envelope split-second decisions that must be made by officers. 
But can you even imagine a scenario where the nation had witnessed more than 100 deaths of unarmed white victims at the hands of (usually) black officers? I cannot. The officers involved in these unnecessary deaths do not have to be avowed racists, but it is difficult not to acknowledge that this problem has a racial component. Racism is a system, and systemic evil will always be larger than individual racists.
The protests were initiated last year when, then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, decided to take a knee during a pre-game national anthem. The silent protest evoked a deafening response from around the country and likely cost Kaepernick his job, if not his career. At the end of last season the NFL franchise dropped the QB and, as of yet, no team has offered him a uniform.
Due to a host of factors – pessimism about the nation’s approach to our racial disparities and several tweets from the President which seemed geared to provoke rather than to calm – Sunday’s pre-game anthems across the country were filled with kneeling athletes. And more tweets.
The president has called these protests “very disrespectful to the flag.” I’d like to respectfully disagree.
I understand that the flag evokes great emotion and that patriotism runs bone-deep. I’m grateful to be an American. There’s a flag flying in my back yard even as I type. But, where flag-wavering controversies are concerned, no small number of decorated veterans have defended the right of even the most overtly-disrespectful protests, flag burnings, desecrations, etc.  The red, white, and blue, as opposed to, say, the North Korean colors, stand, precisely, for your right… to protest.
As I see it, a silent, kneeling protest actually honors our flag by calling our attention to what the protestors believe it stands for, in light of ways they believe we are failing its ideals. You can disagree with the players’ opinions… it’s just hard for me to imagine a more powerful-yet-respectful way to offer a word of dissent.
As a Baptist, I have to feel some respect. Baptists were born in dissent. It is our religious heritage, our ever-present calling.
None of the players brought a gun. None carried torches or chanted bigoted war cries. None displayed posters with offensive slogans. None broke windows, lit fires. As they knelt, no one made up silly names to disparage those who disagreed. They did not utter profane epithets.
Because a moral conscience calls us to speak truth to power when we feel pained by injustice, and because our uniquely American experiment with freedom gives us the right, some players exercised that right. They did not spit on the flag, stomp on the flag, or burn the flag. They paused, honoring the moment. They just did so from their knees. With Kaepernick now supporting them from the stands, you can be sure they are aware the potential cost of such a protest.
Many who disagree are hardly kneeling in silent criticism. These players, with so much to lose, are willing to be so disrespected – and as an American and a Baptist, I feel that’s pretty respectable.