They’re Americans, too

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This weekend marked an interesting moment in American sports. It seems the sideline at NFL games has become the testing ground for political speech. On Sunday, entire teams kneeled during the national anthem and stood with arms locked. The show of solidarity came in response to a series of presidential tweets condemning both the practice of kneeling for the anthem and the players doing it.

It took the nation by storm, with many people issuing an opinion on the subject. On one side are those who believe the act is a sign of great disrespect. On the other side are those who are trying to make a statement about disproportionate violence against people of color in the U.S. The issue has caused anger and a swelling of divisiveness, exacerbated by President Trump’s weighing in on the subject.

In the meantime, while people are glued to television sets or on social media waiting for a chance to voice their ire, there’s a crisis of epic proportions happening. An American territory — not a state — was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Nearly the entire island of Puerto Rico is without electricity and it may take months to get the antiquated system back up and running.

Think about that for a moment: months without electricity. Think about how debilitating three days without electricity was last year when Hurricane Matthew hit this area. In Puerto Rico, ports and airports are damaged, which means a slow response is made even slower. People there are without food, without water, without medications and no way out. The situation is now being referred to as a humanitarian crisis, which will only get worse.

No, these people are not Floridians, as in Hurricane Irma; nor are they Texans, as in Hurricane Harvey. They are Puerto Ricans, and as such, are American citizens, regardless of statehood.

While the word “disgrace” has been bandied about with regard to professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem, the true disgrace is a country not responding adequately to the dire need of 3.4 million of its citizens.

It’s about priorities, and the American priority should be with its people.