To kneel or not to kneel?


Colin Kaepernick.

Jeremy Lane, Brandon Marshall, Marcus Peters, Devin McCourty, Martellus Bennett, Mike Evans, Megan Rapinoe, Bruce Maxwell, J.T. Brown, numerous others.

Every weekend the list of players who protest continues to grow.

To some people, the protests — kneeling, raising a fist, wearing custom shirts, socks and shoes — have been viewed as a sign of disrespect to the military. For some Americans, it’s ingrained from a young age that before you hear that “Oo-oh say” you stand, remove your hat and put your hand over your heart. That might be a part of why this strikes some people as disrespectful to the flag, nation and servicemen and women.

From a young age, some are taught that they’re all linked and to show a perceived sign of disrespect to one is to show a perceived sign of disrespect to all.  This isn’t entirely the case.

Before we go too far in one direction it might not hurt to take a quick refresher course on the history of the national anthem and its eventual involvement in the sports world.

Sept. 13, 1814: Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. As the battle continues into the night he notes the storm flag is still flying but he won’t know its fate until dawn.

Sept. 14, 1814: Dawn comes and the smaller storm flag has been replaced by a larger American flag. This inspires Key to write a poem titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” He gives this poem to his brother-in-law Joseph H. Nicholson who finds the words match up well with “The Anacreontic Song” by English composer John Stafford Smith.

Sept. 16, 1814: Nicholson sends the poem off to a printer in Baltimore and the broadside is printed.

1889: The US Navy adopts “The Star-Spangled Banner”

1916: President Woodrow Wilson orders that the song be played at military events and other appropriate occasions.

April 10, 1918: Rep. John Charles Linthicum of Maryland introduces a bill to officially recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. He will try and fail to pass this bill numerous times.

Sept. 5, 1918: We get the first collectively agreed on playing of the song at a sporting event (other debated dates are May 15, 1862, and April 22, 1897) during the seventh-inning stretch of Game 1 of the 1918 World Series (a game in which Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox threw a shutout against the Chicago Cubs). Given that the game was during the final months of World War I, the U.S. Navy band played the song.

Upon hearing the song, Boston outfielder Fred Thomas (who was currently serving in the Navy, but had been allowed to come back to play in the World Series) turned to the flag and gave it a military salute. Other players faced the flag with their hands over their hearts. The crowd of 19,274 started to sing along and when it had ended there was booming applause. According to the New York Times it “marked the highest point of the day’s enthusiasm.”

March 3, 1931: President Herbert Hoover signs a bill that officially adopts “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States.

1942: Following the U.S. entry into World War II, all baseball teams start to play the anthem before all games. This tradition catches on across all sports.

Oct. 19, 1968: After finishing first and third in the 200-meter race of the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos go to the medal podium wearing no shoes, Olympic Project for Human Rights badges and wearing black gloves. Throughout the playing of the anthem, both athletes bowed their heads and raised a fist.

When they leave the podium they are booed by the crowd. Later on, Smith said, “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black and we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

The late 1960s: Numerous athletes refuse to stand in protest of the Vietnam War and in support of the Civil Rights movement. Teams start to play the anthem prior to athletes leaving the locker rooms.

March 12, 1996: Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refuses to stand during the anthem in protest of anti-Islamic rhetoric. After his suspension, he stands, but with his head bowed in prayer.

Feb. 23, 2003: Vietnam veteran Jerry Kiley runs onto the court with an American flag and up to Manhattanville College player Toni Smith telling her, “She has not earned the right to disrespect the flag.” Smith had been refusing to face the flag all season in protest of U.S. involvement in Iraq.

2009: NFL players are required to stand on the sidelines while the anthem is being played during primetime games. Prior to this, players stayed in the locker rooms “due to timing concerns for the networks.”

May 13, 2015: A report is put out by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake stating that the Department of Defense had paid sports teams for patriotic displays.

Aug. 14, 2016: Colin Kaepernick sits for the anthem during the San Francisco 49ers first preseason game. He continues to do this for the next two games. He explains his protest in a post-game interview by saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He followed that by saying he would continue to protest until the American flag “represents what it’s supposed to represent.”

Sept. 1, 2016: After having a conversation with teammate and U.S. military veteran Nate Boyer, Kaepernick chooses to kneel rather than sit in order to show more respect to current and former U.S. service members while still protesting.

Sept. 4, 2016: Seattle Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe kneels in a game against the Chicago Red Stars. Three days later in a game against the Washington Spirits, the Spirits decide to play the anthem prior to the athletes leaving the locker room stating that, “to willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves.”

Late 2016: Numerous players across all levels of the sport join Kaepernick in protest.

Sept. 22, 2017: President Donald Trump calls out protesting players in a speech at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

Sept. 23, 2017: NBA star LeBron James responds to the president’s comments in a video saying, “It’s not about dividing. We as American people need to come together even stronger.” He later added in a press conference during the Cleveland Cavaliers media day that, “The people run this country. Not one individual. And damn sure not him.”

Later that same day, Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell, whose father was a member of the U.S. Army, becomes the first MLB player to protest the national anthem (Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado sat during the playing of “God Bless America” to protest U.S. involvement in the Middle East) by kneeling and placing his hand over his heart during the anthem. The A’s immediately put out a statement saying the team “pride(s) ourselves on being inclusive” and supports “players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Sept. 24, 2017: During a playoff game, the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA both protest. The Sparks leave and head to the locker room while the Lynx stand at the free-throw line with their arms linked.

Oct. 7, 2017: Tampa Bay Lightning right winger J.T. Brown becomes the first NHL player to protest by raising his fist during the anthem.

So here we are. You’ve read the facts and some of the key points in time.

A nation divided by people in colorful outfits standing up (pun intended) against injustices they see during the playing of the anthem.

Or, a nation divided by disrespectful people playing a game that isn’t worth your time to watch until those playing it start showing respect to the men and women who have served/currently serve in the military.

By going through and talking about these players and sharing, in their words, why they’re doing what they’re doing. Hopefully, you’ve gained something you can have in the back of your mind. Something that sticks out when you’re about to jump into another Facebook battle or get into it with a coworker.


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