Last Sunday marked a day when I began trying to sever a 62-year love affair with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I say trying because it is not easy to walk away from a team you have lived and died with since you were ten years old (1955). That said, I am making a serious effort to ignore the NFL as long as this National Anthem nonsense continues. After all, I love my country more than any sport or any team.
In my life, I have traveled to over 60 countries and lived in Germany, Thailand and Italy. I have heard my share of national anthems in many countries, and as is the custom, I have always stood-not out of allegiance but simple respect as was expected. It is a universal custom. When Colin Kaepernick began what has become a trend in the NFL, I wondered what he would do if he were playing in England-as the NFL does. Would he stand for God Save the Queen (as he should) but not for his own anthem?
Last Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars-at least some of them- answered my question. Playing in London, they stood for the British anthem, but several of them took a knee for their own in full view of tens of thousands of British fans. In short, they humiliated their own country on foreign soil.
Lest some of you bring up the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists on the winners’ podium, I would counter that this is not 1968 and this is not the same America as Smith and Carlos lived in in the 1960s. Their form of protest was shocking at the time (they were both sent home), but I can look back on that event with some perspective. Much has changed in America since then. These present-day football players were not around then.
America is not perfect, but I would suggest that this form of protest, which insults the flag and the anthem, is the wrong form. What other national imperfection might merit not standing for our anthem if some knucklehead like Kaepernick decides it is appropriate? Should I stop standing for the anthem because of the corruption I see in our politics? No, of course not.
I recognize that players have the constitutional right to kneel or sit during the playing of the anthem. That is not at issue. Nobody is going to haul them off to jail. I also acknowledge that it is peaceful protest much preferable to engaging in violence. But common folks like me also have the right to speak our mind and voice our disapproval. That is what we are doing whether writing about it, speaking out, or choosing to cash in our tickets and turn off our TVs on Sunday. If the Steelers can’t walk out of their locker room when the anthem is being played (with the notable exception of Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger with three tours of duty in Afghanistan to his credit), I can find something else to do on Sunday. If the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens can’t stand when their anthem is played on foreign soil, I can switch to the dog shows on Sunday.
As for Mr Kaepernick, he may enjoy the fact that he is becoming a cultural icon, but I would bet that in the long term, he will not go down in history as some latter-day Jackie Robinson. He has chosen to embrace a false narrative (Black Lives Matter) which believes that police are purposely gunning down black men, and that this country has any resemblance to the America of the 1950s or 1960s when it comes to race. We certainly have racial divisions, but this is not a racist country in the sense of say, apartheid South Africa.
Notwithstanding the fact that no NFL team has opted to sign the free agent Kaepnernick, the trend seems to now be that the league and most of the sportscasters are taking the politically correct line of supporting the players. Let them do so. Nobody, however, can force the fans to buy tickets or watch the games on TV. After all, it’s a free country.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com