On Tuesday night, about 30 miles outside of New York City, a women's Division III basketball game between Manhattanville and Kings Point gained national attention because of a season-long protest by Manhattanville's Toni Smith. During the pregame national anthem, Smith turns her back on the American flag to protest the impending war with Iraq.
Smith is doing more than making her point -- she's rejecting everything the flag and this country represent.
The beauty of living in the United States is that Smith has that right -- the First Amendment says so. As a country, we should absolutely hear from protestors and weigh both sides of right and wrong. Millions of Americans have lost their lives fighting to protect that right and freedom.
Throughout history, the union of sports and politics has been at times odd, but impactful. In 1968, we witnessed the silent protest of John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the Olympic games in Mexico City. We saw Muhammad Ali dodge the draft and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sit during the pregame national anthem in Denver. And whether you or I agree with them, they had that right.
In this case, however, boundaries have been crossed. It's one thing to voice an opinion, but it's completely different to turn your back -- literally, not figuratively. In turning her back on the American flag, Smith is doing more than making her point -- she's rejecting everything the flag and this country represent.
Smith is a young woman who, if and when we go to war with Iraq, will continue to live in the United States, perhaps raise a family here and continue to enjoy the freedoms of our democratic system. She should consider that the decisions she makes now will stick with her throughout her lifetime -- people will remember. And I hope she's ready for the repercussions.
Ultimately, I thank God that a young girl like Toni Smith has the right to protest. But I also can't ignore the ignorance and naiveté of her stance.