One of the fondest memories I have is of spending Sunday afternoons with my father, either sitting in Section 633 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, or at the kitchen table in Havertown, watching the Eagles work their magic.

You might have noticed that I am using the past tense. That is because I no longer consider myself an Eagles fan. In fact, I no longer consider myself a fan of the NFL. I am done.

This is bigger than when I broke up with my fiance. This is bigger than when I said I wouldn’t watch the Sixers anymore after they honored convicted felon Meek Mill, because despite my love for Dr. J, I’m not that interested in basketball. This is even bigger than when I was rooting against the Flyers after they disrespected Kate Smith by removing her statue. That last one was hard, because next to football, hockey is the sport that had the strongest hold on my heart. But rooting for the Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins has made things a little easier to bear.

Football, though, is different. Football is family, faith, the sinew of my body and the palace of my memories. It is one of the things that ties me to my father, gone now almost four decades. It is something that my mother, with him in Heaven, loved as much if not more than her husband and sons.

On game days, she wore green, bled green, and fed us things that she colored green. Football was poetry, and drama, and struggle, and autumn, and as I said before, magic. I cried more at Brian’s Song than I did at my father’s funeral. I am “that woman” who really did know as much about football as any man.

And with one act, the Eagles stole it from me. I should say, with one omission, they took away my passion. When the team from Philadelphia met with the team from Washington on Sunday in that show of racial unity, that was a nice gesture. It was expected, planned, staged, necessary, helpful, yadda yadda, let’s move on with the game.

But when the Eagles went back into the locker room as the National Anthem was played, my heart froze in my chest. I thought that it was a momentary mistake, that the team had forgotten to remain on the field and would sheepishly troop out before the last note of the “Star Spangled Banner” echoed through the empty stadium. But they didn’t. They stayed in the locker room.

And that, as they say, was that.

This was the weekend that we commemorated the deaths of 3,000 Americans, murdered in cold blood by people who hated the United States and the flag and anthem that symbolize her spirit. This was a weekend when two police officers had been ambushed, shot in the head by someone who hated law enforcement. This was the weekend that we were supposed to be about national unity.

And the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that represents the city where this country was born in fire and freedom, stayed in the locker room while the anthem was played.

Personally, I don’t think that players should involve themselves in politics, since the people who gather to cheer them on come to celebrate something that is neither red, nor blue. I understand that some people will disagree, and feel that athletes have always had an obligation to use their bully pulpits to advocate for their version of justice. That’s fine, it’s a reasonable difference of opinion.

But what is not fine is the defiant display of disrespect shown to the anthem, to those who died because someone hated that anthem, to those who put themselves on the line for the country defined by that anthem, and that this display was made on this particular weekend, on that particular Sunday.

And so, I am finished. And it breaks my heart. But better to be heartbroken and standing, than comforted by a team that wants to force me to kneel to their misbegotten version of virtue.

Copyright 2020 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]