Let me preface this column by saying, I know there will be people who disagree with me. That doesn’t make you wrong and that doesn’t make me wrong. It just means our opinion and points of view differ.
I love watching sports and always have, and if you know me, you know that I thoroughly enjoy when the national anthem is sung or played at a game.
I always joke with people that “The Star Spangled Banner” is my favorite song and that I would love to sing it at a game… minor detail though: I can’t sing well at all. So there goes that dream.
But over the last few weeks, one of my favorite parts of attending a live game has come under scrutiny.
We are all aware that during a preseason game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the national anthem.
According to an article on the NFL’s website this was Kaepernick’s response following the 49ers preseason game against Green Bay:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
After receiving a lot of a lot of negative attention following his personal decision to sit during the anthem, Kaepernick along with teammate Eric Reid met with Nate Boyer, former Army Green Beret and long-snapper, for a 90 minute discussion, according to an article on ESPN’s website.
This is what came out of their talk:
“We were talking to him about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from pride in our country but keep the focus on what the issues really are,” Kaepernick said. “As we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country.”
Rival team or not, I didn’t like Kaepernick choosing to sit during the anthem but I did respect him for his decision. And I respect him even more when he found a different way to approach the message he was trying to portray.
Do I think it came at a questionable time where he was fighting for the starting quarterback position? Yes.
Do I think it got his name back out in the media whether it be under good or bad circumstances? Yes.
Do I think whether a person, professional athlete or not, stands or sits during “The Star Spangled Banner” really has no impact on any current situation in the U.S.? Yes.
I thought about writing this column for last week’s issue but I knew it would be good to wait a week because the first Sunday of the NFL regular season fell on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Through all this controversy, I was intrigued to see what would happen when “The Star Spangled Banner” was played. And ironically, the 49ers did not play on the 11th.
Throughout the league (and even in college games and high school games across the United States), players chose how they, as an individual, would act. I imagine, this will be the case for the remainder of the season, and will no doubt make its way into other sports across the country. (It has already made its way into the world of soccer when Seattle Reign player Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the anthem.)
According to an article on Time.com, it listed four players from the Miami Dolphins chose to kneel while Kansas City Chief Marcus Peters as well as New England Patriots Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty held their fists in the air.
And then on first game of the season, there were the Seahawks, who came out, stood in a line and locked arms while the national anthem played, including Jeremy Lane who decided to sit during the anthem prior to a preseason game earlier this year.
I have read many comments online since the Hawks game Sunday of “so called fans” bad mouthing them for their decision, as a team, to stand united. I fail to see how standing and interlocking arms makes them any less patriotic.
Plus, the point is, we live in a free country and we can honor the flag, our country, our military in whatever way we see fit.
I find it funny that many people’s first reaction is to blame Kaepernick and claim that if he hadn’t decided to sit or kneel during the anthem then the Seahawks would have never had the discussions they did and they would never have done what they did Sunday.
An article in the Tacoma News Tribune said, the team had spoken with human and civil rights advocate, Harry Edwards, weeks prior to deciding what they would do during the anthem.
“We’re trying to build a bridge,” Richard Sherman said in the News Tribune’s article. “We’re trying to bring people together. We’re trying to help people understand that it’s not just a black problem. It’s not just black people or a minority problem. It’s everyone’s problem. Everyone lives in this country and we want to see it as great of a country as it can be.”
I really do think what Kaepernick started could be a good thing… if the right action is taken. The News Tribune’s article went on to say that the Seahawks plan to meet with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and police chiefs from across the state to continue the discussion.
I’m not sure how much will change from all this but I do think if the right people get involved, we may start to see things change… and perhaps they will start to change for the better.
Honestly to me, it is second nature. Standing during the anthem and placing my hand over my heart has just been something I grew up doing. I don’t remember being taught to do so and I don’t ever remember being told to… It is simply just something I have always done.
It is no one’s place to look at another and tell them what to do when “The Star Spangled Banner” begins.
I really do believe that all this talk about how someone should act during the national anthem is taking away from 1) the game of football, 2) our rights as the free people of the United States and 3) what the American flag means.
“Once again, I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick said in the ESPN article. “I love America. I love people. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from. Those conversations are important to have because the better we understand each other, the better we know each other, the better we can deal and communicate with each other which ultimately makes everyone, puts everybody in a better position.”