With the controversy swirling around President Trump and the National Football League (NFL), I thought it might be a good time to talk about teams and being a good teammate.
At a rally in Alabama on Friday, the president spoke about the NFL players who have knelt or sat down during the playing of the national anthem to protest police violence against people of color across the United States.
Trump called the peaceful protesters mean names and said NFL team owners should get rid of any players who “disrespect our flag.”
On Sunday, NFL players and some owners showed the president what it means to be a team. When the national anthem began at NFL stadiums everywhere, players stood, knelt down, sat, held hands, locked arms, raised fists or stayed in their locker rooms.
They did different things to show how they felt, but they did them together. And isn’t that what being a team is all about?
Professional football teams wear uniforms that make them look alike, but they are all different people. Some are from the country; others are from the city. Some are religious; others never see the inside of a church. And they certainly do not hold the same views on such complicated social issues as how the police treat people of color.
But they put these differences aside to work together to become the best team they can be.
That’s why I think it’s important for kids to play team sports, which help them learn to get along with other kids and become good teammates. A good teammate encourages the other players and doesn’t call them names or drag them down. A good teammate makes everyone feel important and part of the team.
I often tell kids and their parents that most kids who play recreational sports do not go on to play sports in high school. Very few high school athletes play in college. And almost no one becomes a pro. So if we are not teaching our young athletes to become better teammates and better people, we are missing the point of youth sports.
Kids will be on lots of teams during their lives. Students putting on a school play or putting out a school newspaper are a team. People on a job are a team. And even the United States — a huge country with people from many races and backgrounds — is a team.
Those teams don’t succeed by calling people names or saying they are not wanted. Teams do a lot better when their members work together and respect one another.
We need everyone, from President Trump down to the benchwarmers of a neighborhood soccer squad, to be good teammates.
And I’m glad NFL teams are showing us how.
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 22 sports books for kids.