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In the ongoing debate about the NFL player protests during the national anthem, The Root has obtained an exclusive interview with three figures at the center of the debate. Staff Writer Michael Harriot and Senior Politics Editor Stephen A. Crockett sat down to discuss the issue with the American flag, the National Anthem and a Troop.

Michael Harriot: Nice to meet you, first, I’d like for you to state your names for the record.

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Flag: I am the venerable Ulysses S. Flag, although most people call me U.S. Flag

Anthem: I’m “Star Spangled Banner,” you might know me from movies, sporting events and I was born in 1814, which makes me 204 years old.

A Troop: I’m just a troop. No name, no age.

Stephen A Crockett: Just “A troop?” What branch of the military?

A Troop: No branch. I’m just a troop. I’m nothing but a mythical figure in the minds of white people who think I’m out there protecting their freedom. I don’t do any of that shit.

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Michael Harriot: So what do you spend your time doing, then?

A Troop: Oh, don’t get me wrong. My existence alone does a lot of things for this country. No one around the world dares fuck with America because of me. I have the best technology, money to burn and people always invoke my name for sympathy. But I haven’t fought for anyone’s freedom in years. I spend a lot of time training and messing with white girls.

(Pulls out a pack of Marlboros, takes one from the pack and lights it.)

White girls love a troop.

SAC: This is a non-smoking room.

A Troop blows smoke in Stephen’s face.

SAC: Umm ... ok. So Mr. Banner, since you are at the center of this controversy, how did it make you feel when Colin Kaepernick first kneeled?

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S. S. Banner: Man, I was just waiting for my check so I could go home.

SAC: Check?

S. S. Banner: Yeah, bruh. I don’t even like football that much. Need I remind you that I’m 242 years old and they didn’t even start inviting me to games until 1945. Those were the good ole days. Back then, the players would still be in the locker room when I performed and no one cared when I was a little off-key.

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MH: So when did that change?

S.S. Banner: After 2009, the players were on the field, but only during prime time games. Then in 2012, the Department of Defense started paying me to come to games, which I could use because I had lost my nightly gig playing on TV when the television stations went off the air.

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A Troop: I remember that! You were on every channel! I bet you had all the hoes.

SAC: Come on Troop. Be respectful!

A Troop: I’m sorry, this whole thing is just so damn funny to me.

MH: Why?

A Troop. Because I’ve been in the service for 200 years. I was in the Revolution (Not the Prince one, the other one). I was in the Civil War. I was in Vietnam. I’ve seen a lot of men die. But not one of the men I hold near and dear to my heart died because someone disrespected no gotdayum song! You know why people die?

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SAC: Why?

A Troop: Because they send people off to war for stupid shit. I’ve fought for some stupid shit in my life. I went to Iraq based on a lie. Read about the lie behind the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Hell, I almost fucked my back up in the deadliest war in American history over slavery. Slaves!

Yet some of those same motherfuckers who are mad about me being disrespected also respect the most traitorous war in our history and that gottdamn confederate flag!

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No disrespect Mr. Flag. I know that’s your cousin.

U.S. Flag: No problem. He was a racist coward. Fuck him.

MH: Wait, Mr. Flag, you don’t feel disrespected either?

U.S. Flag: Quite the contrary my esteemed brother. I’ve seen some very disrespectful things over the course of lo, so many years. Someone kneeling bothers me not in the least bit.

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SAC: What do you mean? And why do you have a British accent?

U.S. Flag: Lest ye forget, I have been around for a long time and I’ve been watching how they treat my people. And the British accent makes me sound more elite.

A Troop: White girls love accents.

A Troop blows smoke in Stephen’s face ... again.

SAC: Mr. Troop, come on Bruh!

Your people, Mr. Flag?

U.S. Flag: Yes, my people. I was flying on the ships that stole human beings from Africa and sold them in America. I was in the town squares where they lynched people during Jim Crow. I was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 watching the State Troopers beat those protesters who just wanted to vote. I was draped over caskets of black soldiers who gave their lives fighting in a segregated army. I fly over underfunded schools. I was at the courthouse when they set George Zimmerman free. And Darren Wilson. And Daniel Pantaleo. And Geronimo Yanez.

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That all seems a lot more disrespectful to me.

SAC: But what about the flag code?

U.S. Flag: (laughs) The flag code? When it comes to NFL games, that whole thing is a joke! The same flag code that says you should stand at attention, also says ... hold up, let me get my glasses:

The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.

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MH: So do you guys think that the two opposing sides don’t know the other’s viewpoint?

A. Troop: Oh, they know. They just value different things.

MH: What do you mean?

S.S. Banner: What we mean is that the people who support Colin’s protests know that some people believe kneeling is disrespectful to A Troop, Mr. Flag and me, but they believe injustice, inequality and black lives are more important than our feelings. After all, we are inanimate objects.

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Conversely, the people who despise the protests value the flag, the anthem and Mr. Troop over here more than they do the lives and freedom of black people.

SAC: So how do we solve this?

U.S. Flag: Well, in my esteemed opinion, I believe you have to do the same thing Martin Luther King Jr. did (I really liked that boy).

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You have to say “fuck their feelings.”

MH: What?!

A. Troop: He’s right. I ain’t never seen no white man care about a black man’s rights. They said the abolition movement was disrespectful to plantation owners and states rights. They said Civil Rights Marches were disrespectful to southern whites. They said Black Lives Matter was disrespectful to police.

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Progress requires disrespect.

SAC: Last question. How do you feel about Nikes?

A. Troop: I hate them.

S.S. Banner: Burn them.

U.S. Flag: Fuck Nike!

SAC: Why?

U.S. Flag: Because they have never given us an endorsement deal.

S.S. Banner: Yes, I could use the money now that these NFL checks have dried up.

A. Troop: And white girls love Nikes.