Never let a good crisis go to waste, eh? Now that everyone is fixated on issues of potential racial bias in police departments, some of the usual suspects are looking to hitch their wagon to this moment and once again bring up the issue of protesting during the playing of the National Anthem at football and baseball games, along with pretty much any other sporting events. Yesterday, we learned that Roger Goodell has already “taken a knee” on the subject, and NASCAR is edging in that direction by discouraging the flying of Confederate flags at races.
But why settle for simply kneeling or otherwise protesting during the playing of the Anthem when you can go further? Perhaps some of these same people would be interested in banning the playing of the Anthem at these events entirely. That’s the stance being taken in an editorial by Barry Werner at a football news outlet called Touchdown Wire. Just do away with the song entirely.
The NFL should eliminate playing the national anthem before games.
A major theme in the movement for change in the United States is unity. In order for the NFL to remain in step, it is time to end what has become a divisive tradition.
The playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before athletic events has been a long-standing tradition. It somewhat started on Sept. 5, 1918, during Game 1 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs in Chicago.
Since America entered World War I 18 months earlier, more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers had died. A day before the game, a bomb had exploded in Chicago, killing four people and injuring dozens more.
After offering a history of the supposed “controversial” nature of the Anthem, Werner goes on to list some of the athletes who continue to insist on protesting during the display of the flag and the playing of the Anthem. And it’s not just Colin Kaepernick. Adrian Peterson has jumped on the bandwagon, along with other athletes, not just in football, but other sports as well. So we can probably expect that same disrespectful fighting to break out as our professional sports leagues slowly emerge from the shutdown.
Werner concludes his diatribe by insisting that, hey… nobody is trying to disrespect the flag, the country or any particular people. It’s just that the times are changing.
The idea of discontinuing the anthem isn’t about disrespecting the United States of America, the American flag, or any American citizens. It is simply recognizing that times change, and observances need to change with them.
You can insert a reference to Sherman T. Potter exclaiming “horse hockey” here if you wish.
For starters, I don’t think that Werner is going to find much support for his proposal, even among the athletes who are doing all of this protesting. Eliminating the playing of the Anthem at sporting events, while sad and unpatriotic, would undercut their entire “movement.” They don’t want the Anthem to be eliminated because they want to use it as their platform to protest. If the song isn’t played, they have no platform for their performance. If anything, you’d be solving the NFL’s image problem for them because the issue would simply go away.
With that said, it’s hard to believe that we’re dredging up this idiotic fight yet again, particularly after the matter seemed to have finally been settled last fall. But here we are, stuck in the same trenches. And it wouldn’t be so frustrating to me if the entire premise of Kaepernick’s protest wasn’t so misguided and aimed at the wrong target to begin with.
Kaepernick’s original complaint was that minority citizens are physically abused and sometimes killed by police officers using excessive force. While the percentage of arrests where something like that happens out of the total number of police encounters in the country is too small to even be considered a rounding error, it’s obviously true that such things can and do happen on occasion. And it’s equally obvious that we’ve seen instances where such rogue cops are not convicted. These are things that need to change.
But the nation’s flag isn’t some symbol specifically tied to the police or even the military. The National Anthem isn’t a song glorifying law enforcement. Displaying the flag and playing that music at public events honors the entire depth, breadth, and history of our nation. If you want to protest the actions of specific police officers, go take a knee outside a police station. I’m sure CNN and MSNBC would love to send along camera crews to cover your demonstration.
But when you take your anger out on the flag and the National Anthem, up to the point of calling for the elimination of the song, you aren’t disrespecting the police. You’re bashing all of America. If that’s your intent, so be it. You have a right to free speech just like anyone else. But don’t expect the rest of us to go along with it.