On occasion over the years I have both applauded and criticized the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). This week it gets a big pat on the back.
On Wednesday this week the OHSAA sent The Times-Gazette a press release saying it is encouraging Ohio high schools to take part in a statewide Military Appreciation Night on Jan. 20, honoring active and veteran United States Armed Forces members at athletic contests.
Way to go, OHSAA.
Unless you’ve been in hiding or pay absolutely no attention to the news, you are aware that many professional athletes, and even some at the collegiate and other levels, have refused to stand when the National Anthem is played before their games in recent months.
Living in the United States of America, that is their prerogative. But that does not mean it makes me any less angry. And angry is a rather mild word to describe how those people make me feel.
Sometimes, I wish we could load them all up and drop them off somewhere in a Middle East desert. Other times, I feel sorry for them. What is it they don’t understand, I wonder? Do they not realize that there is nowhere else in the world they could enjoy the riches, fame and freedom they seem to feel entitled to? Do they not realize the sacrifices others have made to give them the freedom and riches they enjoy? Do they not realize that to most of us they look like a spoiled little brat? Or do they just not care?
I wrote a story this week about what Highland County high schools are doing in the coming days to honor the OHSAA’s request. Fairfield Athletic Director Denise Vilvens seemed to sum it up best.
“This is the first time the OHSAA has done this and they wanted the schools to set an example in the community for others to follow, and I think that’s a good thing to do,” she said. “I think it’s a good example for our kids to realize the importance of everything our military does for us. In light of some things that have gone on recently at the professional and collegiate levels, I think this is something we need to do to show our respect for our veterans and all military members.”
All local school administrators I talked to for the story pretty much echoed similar sentiments.
Several years ago I worked with a reporter at this newspaper who would not put her hand over her heart or recite the Pledge of Allegiance when that time came at local meetings. I found her actions repulsive, not to mention embarrassing.
The vast majority of National Football League players appeared to feel the same way when San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, and the few who followed his lead, refused to stand for the national anthem before games this year.
In a game between Washington and Pittsburgh, Redskins and Steelers players helped military personnel hold a giant US flag on the field during the National Anthem.
Tennessee Titans’ linebacker Avery Williamson defied the NFL, which had threatened to fine him, and wore custom red, white and blue cleats with stars and the words “Never Forget” on the heels. He said he intended to auction them off and deliver the proceeds to a veterans’ charity.
Teri Johnson, a mother who lost her son, Sgt. Joseph Johnson, in an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2010, told CNN, “When I read that (Kaepernick) said he couldn’t stand for a flag that he didn’t have pride in … right away, my heart kind of stopped and I lost my breath because the flag that I see is the flag that draped my son’s casket in honor. And I see the flag that was handed to my husband and I with deep respect from a grateful nation. When I look at the flag, I see the best of us.”
When I learned that schools locally and across the state have responded quickly to the OHSAA’s call to action, I was encouraged to know that despite our lack of perfection, when it comes to honoring our nation’s veterans and active military personnel, most of us are more than willing to respond.
It’s sad when a high school organization has to show many at the professional and collegiate levels how things should be done.
The OHSAA most definitely got this one right.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.