Starting with the 2016 football season, there was a lot of hubbub over players "taking a knee" during the national anthem. The reactions were divided along ideological lines. Despite all the information available out there, there is still plenty of outrage and doubling down. Let's take a closer look.
This started with the apparent ramping up of lethal violence by police against citizens of color, often those who were innocent or guilty of only the mildest of infractions (selling cigarettes, traffic infractions). The Black Lives Matter movement sprung up in response (which in and of itself generated and continues to generate loud arguments). In a show of support San Francisco 49s quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit on the bench, because he felt that the generally unsung verses to the Star Spangled Banner supported - rather than condemned - the treatment of non-whites as less than human.
Kaepernick had a discussion with Green Beret Nate Boyer
, and the idea of kneeling was borne:
"We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates," Boyer says. "Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother's grave, you know, to show respect. When we're on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security."
Boyer also got called many names for his decision to stand next to Kaepernick during the anthem.
"I got called a lotta things from both sides. I was told I was a disgrace to the green beret by a couple Green Berets, one of 'em I was friends with," Boyer says. "And that hurts, you know? It really does. But then I also had a lot of people in the military and people in special forces that said, 'Man, I hadn't really thought about that before. And I think you're onto something.'"
So with the approval of a lot of people in the military
, Kaepernick spent the rest of the season respectfully kneeling during the playing of the anthem. He instantly became a lightening rod, especially as more players began to copy him. This picked up steam in the 2017 season, as players either knelt, locked arms, or stayed in the locker room. Fair weather fans declared they weren't going to watch the games anymore.
This season, the NFL has declared that players MUST stand during the anthem, or risk fines and possible on-field penalties. This is where I am REALLY having a problem.
This new directive was pushed on them by pResident tRump
, something that has some of the owners very pissed. NY Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has said he will pay the fines
of any players who choose to kneel. The tRump as asserted and inserted himself into this (calling the players "sons-of-bitches") is appalling.
At the crux of all this is the over-the-top jingoism from right-wingers and well-meaning but clueless moderates who don't see how transparent all the outrage is. They claim it disrespects the flag and the troops. Oh really?
This wouldn't even be an issue if it weren't for the military paying the NFL
to stage these big splashy shows of "patriotism" before every game. They do this as a recruiting tool for the armed forces. How cynical is that? Is that respectful?
The displays also violate the U.S. Flag Code
, in particular section 176c: "The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free."
How does this not outrage every patriotic American?
Here are a couple more items from section 176 of the flag code:
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.
There's also the notion that the flag, the national anthem, and the military are all the same thing. They are not. If we made a simple Venn diagram with "Flag", "Anthem", and "Military", there would be some overlap, but it would not merge into a single circle. The flag represents the Republic - which includes all Americans and our government
, as well as our land and everything in it. The military is just one part of that (and - excepting the Navy and the state militias - not mentioned in the Constitution). I feel that these displays before a sporting event cheapen the anthem and the flag, and the inclusion of the military is just bizarre. Why do we do this just for sporting events? It doesn't make any sense.
Perhaps it's time for these absurd displays to end. The flag is disrespected by the very nature of how it's displayed, regardless of what the players do. Criticizing players for exercising their 1st Amendment rights is unpatriotic and dismissive of the realities of an entire class of people. Cynically using our national symbols to spur recruitment in the military is way more disrespectful than kneeling while the national anthem plays.
It's a sorry mess all the way around.