I Pledge Not To Kneel In China
The 2017 PAC-12 basketball game between UCLA and Georgia Tech in Shanghai, China, yielded a little more than points on the scoreboard. November 6 2017, Chinese authorities arrested three UCLA basketball players. Jalen Hill, LiAngelo Ball, and Cody Riley were detained and accused of shoplifting during some free time prior to the game. After conversations and an appeal by the Trump administration to the Chinese government the trio were released from custody, and Tuesday, November 14, 2017, returned home. Each of the students made public apologies for their actions and the officials at UCLA issued sanctions against the young men including indefinite team suspension until they completed their own investigation into the matter.
Will this be the fourth quarter in the trio’s career? Now, the student body, the sports world and the nation await the final outcome as to what punishment will be meted out by the University. So, what should the appropriate penalty be? Sportswriters, fans and casual observers have been offering opinion since the news became known several days ago and the topic will be discussed for some time into the future, or at least until the next “big thing” interrupts play in the sports world.
During this time out for Mr. Hill, Mr. Ball and Mr. Riley, I would suggest they make a series of public service announcements to be distributed to communities across America. The goal of the PSA’s would not only serve as a reminder to these men of the offense they committed, but to serve as an ongoing reflection to a valuable life lesson which they stated was learned during their public apology.
To insure a long lasting positive result of this “sentence” the content of each PSA must contain a message which not only conveys contrition, but also promotes the value of living in a society which believes in redemption for those who are sincerely remorseful for their transgressions. Perhaps that message could include the following:
...Because of our actions, we were detained in China and experienced a justice system quite different from what one would expect being a citizen of The United States of America. We were not sure of our fate. Not sure if or when we would return home. We thank President Trump and his administration for his intercession on our behalf and President Xi Jingping of China for his assistance and cooperation in our release. We apologize for our wrongful actions and ask forgiveness from all who we negatively affected. Because we alone are responsible for the offenses which led to our detention, we do not fault the Chinese government for their actions toward us.
We are now home in America and again enjoying the freedoms of American citizenship. While we may not be able to pursue a career in college or professional basketball, we are able to pursue happiness in the Land of the Free. We ask of our fellow citizens to give us a second chance to prove our worth to contribute positively to the country we call home. Although we have this blemish in our past and the pain it caused still fresh in the minds of those we love and live among, we strive to perfect ourselves and redeem that image of ignominy we caused.
Immediately upon landing in America, the fear, desperation and despair of the past week was replaced with calm and promise of a future, even with the uncertainty of a sports career – our chosen path - on the line. The future was bright because America’s bounty offers all who play by the rules the opportunity to excel if not in one endeavor, perhaps another. Success is not attained by the pomp and circumstance of stardom or the ability to use one’s public prominence in an advantageous self-entitled manner. When the assignment of ‘superstar status’ by the public to an individual in a given field, that status should become the platform used to encourage observers and fans to realize their own God given promise.
I would venture to add that it was more than just landing in California which caused a sigh of relief for the three members of UCLA’s basketball team, their families and schoolmates. It was the certainty of liberation which is available to a Citizen of The United States of America being again in their grasp. Of course the images of the entire ordeal experienced by the players will be with them for a life time. But I might suggest while time and tastes may dictate architectural changes to buildings, pop culture heroes will be short lived fads, and sports heroes will rise and fall with tournament championships, one unflappable symbol that will not fade in the minds of Mr. Ball, Mr. Riley, and Mr. Hill, nor should it grow faint in the mind of us all, is that of The Stars and Stripes.
Are there painful blemishes and negative memories associated with the flag? Yes. But those blotches remind us of the same promise offered to the “UCLA 3” after their self-inflicted failings in China.
So while some in the NFL are “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, perhaps they should have a “judicial experience” without the coverage of a symbol they have deemed oppressive.