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Helmet Kisses: A Dear Football Mom column by Candy A. Westbrook

Dear Football Mom,

What do you think of the NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem?

This season, my inbox lit up like a flaming furnace with this one question. I’ve passed the hot potato for as long as I could, so here goes. If you are weak-kneed and can’t stand the sight of blood, please move on to the next article.

This issue is not about race, creed, religion, politics, aliens, cop killings, whose lives matter, or anything remotely connected to them. Hogwash! It’s about disrespect. Nothing more. The NFL-ers have soiled their britches and smeared their fans in the process. Players followed the wrong guy’s example. This is a heart issue. 

Tim Tebow’s heart led him to pray on the sidelines. Not during the anthem, mind you. Yet he was raked over the coals and shredded to pieces for kneeling. The multitude of praises for this anthem-kneeling as a protest is disgusting. You’ve lost your messaging, guys.  

I think of Arizona Cardinals’ Pat Tillman leaving millions on the NFL table, along with his newly married wife, family, and friends to sign up and serve in the United States Army. His heart drove him to follow what he felt was the right thing to do — keep the war on foreign soil, away from the homeland. He lost his life fighting for America and the battle of freedom. I wonder what he would think of his fellow teammates feeling free to take a knee during the anthem. 

The sad truth of the matter is this: There are kids who literally have no one to look up to. Not a single soul on this earth, but they are searching. Searching for heroes … someone, anyone, to look up to. Do you NFL-ers get that you may be the only visible hero in their lives? The only hope they tangibly see and possibly the only mentors they could, maybe, by some small chance, see themselves respecting. Your influence is profound. Just look at who has taken a knee lately —high schoolers all the way to peewee teams, some colleges, and now cheerleaders. Seriously. Are you proud of that? Have you thought this through? What sort of influencer do you want to stand and be known for?  

This game — this game of football that y’all are so blessed to play and get paid for — stands for something. It stands for something good like values, teamwork, serving others before yourself, and building hope for kids to rise above circumstances beyond their control, believing they could too, do what you guys do. 

Football was once respected. And it reeked of comradery — players coming together to reach shared goals. You are messing up my game, boys. What you guys are really doing is dividing. Where is the honor in that?

Even poor ole lightweight commissioner Roger Goodell had to finally weigh in to say the players should stand. Wow, that was heavy. Had he been the executive in charge he should have been — instead of a powderpuff — we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He could have solved this from the beginning before his paycheck started dwindling.

For every player who takes a knee during the anthem and disrespects our flag, there are at least five players who would be enormously grateful to take his position. Perhaps the fans should go after the owners and demand a new game plan. Let’s call it the “you’re fired play.” The owners really need to take stock and renegotiate contracts instead of cowering and coddling these crybabies.      

Fellas, there’s a time and place to make your voices heard, but there is also need for a good heart check first. What is your heart motive? If you want to protest something, protest in your communities. Or better yet, do something positive for someone who needs what you can offer. Don’t you think there is enough negative going around to gag a maggot? Make a constructive difference in lives that are right in front of you. Be honorable, kind, considerate. It’s not about the big things. The smallest gestures can make a huge impact in someone’s life, especially a young kid looking for a role model. 

Unless you NFL-ers are willing to trade in your football uniform for a military uniform, you don’t deserve the right to take a knee or disrespect our country.

Each question is handled with discretion and privacy. Identity of persons asking questions will not be shared. All information is strictly confidential. Questions are not limited to Forsyth County and encompass surrounding areas, including other states. As “The Heart Behind the Gridiron,” we try to answer a variety of questions and scenarios surrounding the game. Answers are opinion-based. We are not responsible for results. All questions should be submitted by email to