Business leaders have long used breakfast, yes, breakfast, to illustrate the difference between being merely involved in a project and being committed to it.
If we’re talking ham and eggs, the chicken is definitely involved. But the pig? The pig is committed.
I can’t help thinking about this when I see football players dropping to a knee during the National Anthem. I don’t question their right to protest or the validity of their cause. But somehow the action strikes me as involvement more than commitment.
I’ll try to explain by calling your attention to the little known 1987 movie “Amazing Grace and Chuck.” The critics panned this flick but I loved it. Although I often wonder if I’m the only one who’s ever seen it.
The Chuck in the movie’s title is Chuck Murdock, a 12-year-old kid who’s the top pitcher on his Little League team. His class goes on a field trip to one of those silos that hid Minuteman missiles during the height of the Cold War. The tour guide says something like, “If that red button is pushed, the devastation the missile will inflict will happen in less time than it takes a dropped fork to hit the floor.”
This freaks Chuck out. Gives him nightmares. And when he happens to knock a fork off the table at dinner it becomes more than he can bear. So he decides to do something about it. He announces he won’t pitch again until nuclear weapons are banned from the earth. It’s the only thing he has to give up, he tells his dad, who is a jet pilot.
Chuck’s protest gets a bit of attention and when “Amazing Grace” Smith, the best player in the NBA, a fictional Michael Jordan if you will, sees something about it in a newspaper, he’s inspired to do the same thing. He refuses to play any more games as long as there are nuclear weapons. Other professional athletes follow suit and before long the President of the United States must step in.
Chuck is played by Joshua Zuehlke, who as far as I can tell did not appear in much else. But the part of Amazing Grace is portrayed by actual NBA player Alex English. Jamie Lee Curtis plays his agent. And the President is played by Gregory Peck, who despite the critics making fun of the movie, called it “A Frank Capra film for the nuclear age.”
I won’t tell you how the story turns out because, frankly, I don’t remember. But the point is, while, yes, this is only a movie, and a far-fetched one at that, the kid Chuck and the millionaire basketball player know a thing or two about commitment.
I wonder what would happen if rather than simply “taking a knee” to bring attention to police brutality or racial relations, players instead said they will sit out a game. And challenge the owners to donate their salaries to programs designed to address the problem.
Just for fun, I did the math. Using whatever info I could find on the internet, I learned the average NFL salary is $1.9 million a year. Therefore, each of the 1,696 players earns, on average, $118,750 per game. Which means on a given Sunday, NFL players collectively earn $201,400,000.
What kind of inner-city programs, if indeed that’s where an effort to turn things around should begin, could $200 million launch?
And what if the players sat out a second week? Then we’re closing in on half a billion. And what if other professional athletes joined them?
And what if billionaire team owners, backed into a corner, were forced to say, “Come back to the playing field and we’ll donate some of our own money to help right these wrongs?”
What I am driving at is this. Why be merely involved with one dirty knee on the pants of your uniform when you can be committed with a little lighter bank account?
Naive? Of course it’s naive. Just like that silly movie. But a guy can dream, can’t he?
And while I’m at it, one last comment.
The nation the American flag represents, as proclaimed in the constitution which established it, is so committed to freedom in all forms, including and especially freedom of speech, it not only allows for dissent but defends one’s right to it. Even if such dissent means disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the National Anthem.
For this alone, shouldn’t we leap to our feet to honor it?
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com