And another thing!

As I consider the Rev. Hal Ritter’s Oct. 1 op-ed piece regarding “who’s really desecrating the U.S. flag,” I cannot help hiding an admittedly impish grin, wondering what subject, if any, the preacher left for his homily next Sunday. Indeed, I believe he has thrown the whole bale of hay at the congregation all at once, moving in rapid-fire succession from one unsubstantiated allegation to the next, never troubling to provide support for any of them.

He suggests, for example, that President Trump is indifferent to Puerto Ricans, has a “white supremacist agenda” and possesses “no knowledge of the Bill of Rights.” He prattles on, apparently concluding there is an unconditional constitutional right to desecrate the flag and that professional athletes possess that right. When they exercise it, the pastor explains, they are not protesting “veterans, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the U.S. flag,” but only “racism and violence.” He proclaims, in a paradoxical twist, that it is the president himself who is desecrating the flag!

Only two of his comments are deserving of response. First, about Puerto Rico. The island suffered massive and unprecedented devastation from Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20. The gravity of the situation has certainly not been lost on President Trump. Indeed, the governor of the island, Ricardo Rosselló, has publicly stated that, while much more needs to be done to meet the emergency, “the other thing that’s also true is that the administration has answered and has complied with our petitions in an expedited manner.”

Thanks to these efforts, as of Sept. 29, all phone landlines on the island are now working, about 10,000 people are in about 230 shelters, around half of the island’s people have regular water service, millions of meals and liters of water have been sent from ports to 11 distribution points throughout the island where they are being redistributed to the needy.

Second, professional football players are employees. As such, they are not allowed to do anything they may wish to do in the course of their employment. They may desire to express support for murdered policemen by wearing a special decal on their uniforms. They may feel inclined to take their helmets off on the field in order to celebrate touchdowns. Or they may, as we have seen, decide not to stand during the anthem. All are explicit violations of NFL rules.

Perhaps the good reverend will enlighten us on where precisely there is an unconditional right by an employee to dishonor the United States flag on his employer’s time and contrary to his employer’s wishes. If the pastor cannot show us where such a right is to be found, I am wondering whether his Christianity will allow him to retract his perverse claim that the president is desecrating the flag when criticizing the conduct of these athletes.

L. Scott Smith, McGregor