National (anthem) debate

If there are two things America loves, it’s football and America. When a professional football player doesn’t stand for the playing of our national anthem, surely there will be problems.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has decided to take a stand against the oppression of black people and people of color in the US. Since the preseason of the NFL, Kaepernick has not stood for the anthem because he wants to bring attention to the police brutality and social injustice in America.


(Kaepernick sitting during the anthem behind Navy Seals and Marines holding the American Flag)

It has spiraled into a national debate on everything but.

Sam Borden of the New York Times evaluates both ways to look at the issue. One side is that not standing during the national anthem is disrespectful to our flag and nation that gave him the very right to do so in the first place. The other is that the same people who trumpet our freedoms are the first ones to criticize when someone exercises those freedoms.

“This is not something I am going to run by anybody…I have to stand up for the people that are oppressed,” Kaepernick said.

The 49ers, along with the league, continue to rationalize Kaepernick’s decisions, saying that it is not required to stand during the anthem. Though why is it that sporting events are so strongly connected to playing the national anthem?

The playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been known to go as far back as baseball games in the mid-19th century. The New York Times talked to spokesmen for leagues including Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Hockey League (NHL) who all believe we play the anthem in honor of our country with great meaning and value to support the people who have built to protect it.

Eric Liu was Bill Clinton’s speech advisor who co-wrote a book on patriotism titled “The True Patriot”. According to Liu, America’s foundation is completely different than any other country in the world. We are connected by notions and concepts instead of religion or ancestry. This may be why our anthem seems so important and why so many people are offended by Kaepernick’s actions of not standing when the anthem is played.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL media according to the New York Times. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Kaepernick is the first professional athlete to speak out about issues in the US in a few years. Athletes don’t want to jeopardize their endorsements or face possible suspensions. Eleven years ago, the Toronto Blue Jay’s first basemen, Carlos Delgado, stayed in the dugout during the playing of “God Bless America”. He wanted to make a point that he did not approve of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He signed with the New York Mets in 2005 and joined them when it played.

Twenty years ago Denver Nugget, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, was suspended for two days without pay when he refused to stand for the anthem.

Many NFL football players are following Kaepernick’s lead, either by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem before their games. Every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, America waits in anticipation to see who else will join Kaepernick’s stand.