Hundreds of players in the NFL knelt during the National Anthem as a protest to President Trump over the weekend, causing a media frenzy and massive controversy.
Yet Secretary of Defense James Mattis responded to the event much differently than reporters were expecting, according to The Federalist. When asked about the NFL protest given his position in the military, his response literally ended the Q&A. “I’m the Secretary of Defense. We defend the country,” he said.
Mattis’s complete indifference to the disrespect shown by NFL players is not surprising considering the serious issues he’s been facing recently. According to NBC, he’s had his hands full after North Korea misconstrued Trump’s comments last weekend a “declaration of war.”
The alleged declaration of war was a tweet Trump sent out saying: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
The mentioned North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, told reporters that North Korea would respond to the comment by shooting down US airplanes: “Since the US declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the US bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”
He reiterated that Trump’s comments were to be considered a declaration of war: “Last weekend, Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn’t be around much longer and he declared a war on our country. Even the fact that this comes from someone who is currently holding the seat of the US presidency is clearly a declaration of war.”
According to CBS, Mattis informed reporters that the military was prepared for a worst-case scenario, but diplomacy was still being pursued. “We maintain the capability to deter North Korea’s most dangerous threats but also to back up our diplomats in a manner that keeps this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm,” he said.
Mattis has also been working to bring peace back to the Middle East by eradicating ISIS and stabilizing Afghanistan, according to Reuters. This weekend he was meeting with Indian leaders to crack down on militant groups and sanctuaries in the area and obtain India’s help to bring stability.
During a statement, Mattis declared: “There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens. As global leaders, India and the United States resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge.”
Mattis has also been assisting India with its efforts to strengthen their military and naval might in the face of what’s considered assertive stances by China in the South China Sea.
According to Dhruva Jaishankar, a specialist on India and US relations, China is intimidating both the US and India. He stated, “China looms very large for both countries. The strategic underpinning of India-US defense ties is in the common concerns they have over China, over its revisionism.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has no interest in the NFL controversy. Does he have his priorities straight?
Between the militaristic concerns of eradicating ISIS, striving to ensure long-standing peace in Afghanistan, assisting India’s defense against looming China, and handling the growing threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea, it’s no wonder that Mattis hasn’t given a thought to the NFL protests.
Mattis’s statement reminds us that while the NFL protests are upsetting–and a huge act of disrespect to our country and the military, it’s not important enough to think about. These brave men and women busy working to defend the US from looming threats to our safety don’t have the time to worry about those ungrateful for their service.
Maybe one day these NFL protesters will realize the huge sacrifices and countless hours these men and women–like Mattis–work to ensure they continue to receive all the freedoms and benefits they’ve enjoyed. Until then, perhaps we need to follow Mattis’s example to simply ignore them and realize we have more important things to worry about.