Colin Kaepernick, Please Stand or Sit For The National Anthem
"That's a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect of
everything that we stand for. Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners,
when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a b**** off the field
right now. Out! He's fired." – President Donald Trump
A Donald Trump campaign rally is like watching the Kardashians compete in a
spelling bee. You know thousands of your brain cells are probably going to commit
suicide, but you cannot take your eyes off of it. These events are the nation’s
Freudian id, our darkest impulses, vomited up in an incoherent manner by an
octogenarian who resembles a Cheetos discovered after half-a-dozen years in your
couch cushions, complete with a Lee Greenwood soundtrack.
Last week the president went to Alabama to try to save the nation from former
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore becoming a United States
Senator, and by nation, I mean the Republican Party. While most Republicans long
for the 1950s, Judge Moore pines for the 1850s and would be a fund raising dynamo
for the Democratic Party with his gaffs and beliefs. Trump would like to see Luther
Strange, Jeff Sessions’ replacement, return to Washington. Strange, the Alabama
Attorney General, got the job while in the midst of his investigation of Gov. Robert
Bentley’s sex scandal. It is claimed that Bentley promoted Strange “to get rid of him.”
There is no truth to the rumor that Donald Trump upon hearing this said, “You mean
I could have just promoted James Comey?”
So, we got a president who has been dogged by racist allegations, especially
after his botched response to Charlottesville, in the land of George Wallace and Bull
Conner in front of a lily-white audience. Who does he feel the need to attack?
Remember this is a state that just passed a law to make sure than none of their
beloved Confederate general’s statues are ever torn down.
If you answered African-American football players, you win. I am not saying it
was completely racist, that involves pre-thought and not having half the crowd turn to
answer you if you yell “Skeeter” or “Billy Joe,” but you might have a problem or two
finding white sheets at the local Wal-Mart if you lived nearby.
It should be mentioned that Alabama does not have a professional football
team, well, other than the University of Alabama. The NFL couldn’t afford them. So,
why did the orange blossom special ed. student feel the need to bring up African-
American athletes in a campaign rally for an Alabama Senator? It is not like Luther
Strange is going to vote on whether Colin Kaepernick should cut his hair or not.
It seems America has lost its collective minds over San Francisco 49ers
quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during The National Anthem to
protest police brutality towards African-Americans last year. He did not yell, jump
around, or do the highly patriotic act of scratching his man junk like most baseball
players do during the anthem. He simply and quietly kneeled. Other African-
American players followed suit last season and this year. America went nuts.
Kaepernick, whose contract expired at the end of last season, has been unable to
find a job, even as a backup for another team, since, which seems strange given
that he is better than half the quarterbacks in the NFL.
These are also the same people who felt quarterback Tim Tebow was being
persecuted and mocked for his religious beliefs a few years back. Kneeling in prayer
on the football field became known as “Tebowing.” “How dare anyone belittle his
beliefs? He has a right to show his faith publicly,” bellowed half of America. I made
fun of Tebow, not because he knelt in prayer. If you want to thank the God of love
and peace after two teams of steroid-ridden behemoths have inflicted violent brain
damage on each other, I have no problem with that. I made fun of him because he
could not throw a decent pass.
Tebow believed he was respecting God. Colin Kaepernick and other African-
American players believe they are showing respect and love for those made in the
image of that same God. They are flipsides of the same coin. I am sure what I just
wrote involves listening in church, which takes away from one’s mind wandering
during the sermon to what you are going to eat for lunch. So, I apologize.
Both are quietly kneeling. Both I believe have good intentions. Both, if you
listen to them, seem to be real credits to their families. The only real difference is
Colin Kaepernick lost a few paychecks because of his beliefs. Still, neither are going
to be panhandling on a corner near you anytime soon.
(Did you know that there is a college in Indiana that refuses to play The
National Anthem before sporting events because they love God so much? Goshen
College, a Mennonite institution, believes the words to The Star-Spangled Banner
are violent and violate the pacifistic ethic preached by Jesus. Which side to take in
that tar baby is enough to give Mike Pence a nervous breakdown.)
It begs the question, why would an NFL owner want to listen to Donald
Trump? People forget that he once owned a professional football team, the New
Jersey Generals in the USFL. He managed the amazing feat of not only destroying
his own team, but the entire league as well. (See ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on
Still, there are some owners that back Trump up. Jerry Jones, the owner of
the Dallas Cowboys, has ordered his players to stand during the anthem. He “likes
the way the Cowboys do it.” He has made it clear that he would never sign a player
Granted, he doesn’t seem to have much of a problem filling his roster with
rape and violence towards women. This year Jones is fighting to keep his prize
running back from being suspended for six games for domestic violence. The team’s
third round draft pick stood trial for beating up his girlfriend this summer. In 2015,
they signed a player that tried to strangle his ex-girlfriend and threw her into some
furniture. All these moves were well after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice
choked his girlfriend out in a hotel elevator. I guess that is just boys being boys.
Jerry, like many NFL owners, is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They
just better stand during The Star-Spangled Banner is all. Because abusing woman is
not near as outrageous as solemnly kneeling or raising a fist before a football game.
If African-American athletes not standing during The National Anthem was a
problem, it all could be solved pretty simply, just have it played before the players
come onto the field. It is not set in stone when it has to be played in the pre-game
ritual. Francis Scott Key, as he sat a prisoner on a British warship, did not specify
when our country’s future song should be played during a yet to be invented football
contest. It could even be played at halftime. (During the 1918 World Series, in the
midst of World War I, it was sung during the seventh inning stretch.)
I am so old that I remember when the NFL did not require players to be on the
sidelines for the National Anthem. It was 2009. Yes, call me grandpa. Back then
there were actually people who did not carry cell phones around with them all the
time. Individuals were often forced to talk to each other face-to-face. People had
phones that were permanently still attached to their houses. Not everyone was
posting pictures of their food on Facebook. There were still things called
newspapers. Americans were watching some television shows called The Office,
Breaking Bad, and How I Met Your Mother. I know you probably never have heard of
them. Avatar was number one at box office. A black dude named Barack Obama had
just moved into public housing called “The White House”. Joan Rivers had beat out
Dennis Rodman, Jesse James, and a professional poker player to win Donald
Trump’s The Apprentice. It was truly a terrifying time.
Before that, it was up to the team’s discretion. Teams could stay in the locker
room, come out, or do whatever they pleased. It is unclear whether this change in
policy had anything to do with the Department of Defense giving the NFL large sums
of taxpayers’ money to aid in recruitment and promotion of our military, in what has
become known as “paid patriotism.”
Here is what is clear. Donald Trump brought up the issue in Alabama because
it is all about breeding resentment. He is speaking to a group of people who felt so
much has been taken from them. Their wages have stagnated since the 1980s. Here
are these millionaire athletes who are living the American dream, making money
hand over fist while I am just scraping by. How dare they imply that this country is
racist! How dare Colin Kaepernick not stand during the anthem! They should be
kissing the flag that allows them the freedom to roll around in a big pile of money
every night. Fear and resentment breed anger and cloud the mind.
It is the same country where all the money in the world is not going to lessen
the tightness in your chest when you are pulled over by a police officer. When you
are African-American. Where every week a new video of an innocent person being
needlessly shot seems to surface. Even the size of your bank account does not
lessen the pain of having to explain to your child that they should never be
disrespectful to the law. “Yes, sir, no, sir,” even when they are wrong. Always keep
your hands in sight, and never run. As a parent you want to make sure your kid
comes home at night.
Is the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner the best place to address this
concern? I don’t know. I don’t know what forum is. I know it is not an Alabama
campaign rally. I do know that when we forget our collective ideals, centering on the
notion that all men are created equal, we can turn flags and banners into false idols.