Opinion: Dos and don’ts of protesting for athletes. (Hint: It’s never acceptable for some)

After more than four years of lectures on what is appropriate when it comes to protests, the last two days have left me confused.

So let me see if I have this right:

► If you are Colin Kaepernick and you peacefully take a knee during the national anthem, the President of the United States will call you a “Son of a Bitch.” You will lose your job in retaliation, be told to leave America and you and your loved ones will be subjected to death threats.

If you tear down the American flag and replace it with a Trump 2020 banner during an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the president will tell you he loves you and say you are “very special.” If you parade through the Rotunda with a Confederate flag, a symbol of treason, the very people who have howled about Kaepernick disrespecting the flag, the anthem, apple pie and Trump steaks will hail you as a patriot.

Several people got on to a scaffolding outside Senate, took it to second floor, which looked like the area where McConnell’s office is located, and started banging on windows pic.twitter.com/IIZ21nkzFT

► If you are an athlete who says Black Lives Matter or dares to lobby for racial, gender and LGBTQ equality, you will be told to stick to sports. If you are an athlete who uses your platform to foster tolerance and understanding for the marginalized, you will be asked why anyone should care what a basketball player thinks. (Or soccer player or tennis player or gymnast.)  

If you are a former football coach who knows nothing about politics and even less about the Constitution, you can spout endless sports clichés on your way to a Senate seat. If you are an athlete, or coach, who uses your platform to shill for Donald Trump or spout conspiracy theories, you will be celebrated as a straight-talking, voice of the people.

Probably be given the Medal of Freedom, too.

OPINION: NBA stars Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler have seen two different Americas. They hope now everybody sees it.

RIOT REACTION: Warriors' Draymond Green on pro-Trump rioters at Capitol: 'They're (expletive) terrorists'

► If you are gathered in peaceful protest, you can be tear-gassed, left to writhe on the ground while the President parades past without acknowledging you for a photo op. 

If you show up at the Michigan capitol with guns, shutting down the business of government and terrorizing legislators, the President will urge that your concerns be heard. 

Is it now acceptable for athletes such as Eric Reid, left, and Colin Kaepernick to take a knee to protest social injustice? (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

► If you are a Black or brown person marching peacefully in pursuit of racial justice and equality, you can be tear-gassed, have weapons drawn on you or be beaten by police. Likely without warning. It does not matter if you are unarmed, obey orders or are even carrying a child.

Your pleas to be heard and seen, you see, pale in comparison to the entitlement and rage of white men and women who, after 400-plus years of privilege, see equality as oppression.  

If you’re one of those aggrieved white folks, however, you can take to the streets, defy orders to disperse and ignore curfews with no repercussions whatsoever! There will be no rubber bullets, no mass arrests, no military-level shows of force. Why, some fine people in law enforcement will even take selfies while you are invading the Capitol and, when the failed attempt to overthrow democracy is over, hold your hand as they gently escort you out of the building.

You will not believe your eyes.

A police officer is holding the hand of a domestic terrorist as he kindly escorts her down the steps.

I have no words.

They might even give you a lollypop to quench your hunger after a hard day of insurrecting.

“It’s shameful to keep calling them protesters,” Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “They’re not (expletive) protesters. They’re (expletive) terrorists.”

That seems harsh. If they were truly terrorists, they would have spent Wednesday night in jail rather than enjoying drinks and snacks in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt, reveling in a day that will be immortalized in the soon-to-be-released “Coups Gone Wild!”

While maskless, of course.

“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King has said, that there is two split different Americas,” Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “In one America you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your back yard. In the other America, you get to storm the Capitol, and no tear gas, no massive arrests, none of that."

Now you understand my confusion. Rules and norms are demanded of Black and brown people and their allies.

But when you're aggrieved and white, they let you do anything.   

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

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