Let’s be perfectly clear on something here. It is NOT against any law to sit, kneel, or even lie prone while the Star Spangled Banner is being played. It is everyone’s right to do as they will. According to Title 36 (section 171) of the United States Code, “During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in (military) uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart …” ‘Should’ does not equate to ‘must’, and there are neither penalties nor punishment for failing to do so. It is not a law.
Before a pre-season game in 2016, Colin Kaepernick sat down, actually took to one knee, as opposed to the tradition of standing, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. During a post-game interview, he explained his position stating, “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.”
For the record before we move along, I stand, or rather sit/kneel, with Mr. Kaepernick in his protest. It is not that I am not loyal to my country, for I am. But frankly, the flag is a symbol, a mere piece of cloth, that is supposed to represent certain values and ideals. Today, those values and ideals are being trampled, and I would have done exactly as Mr. Kaepernick did.
Last night, when Donald Trump was in Alabama to support senate candidate Luther Strange, he made the following statement …
“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!’” No, Donnie, I would not love to see that. You have almost single-handedly shredded the values for which that flag once stood. Trump also said such an owner would “be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.” He added that if fans were to “leave the stadium” in response to a protest, “I guarantee things will stop.”
I strongly, adamantly disagree with Mr. Trump, but then what’s new, right? The right to protest is an important part of our right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Mr. Kaepernick, and many others who took his lead and ‘took a knee’ since, are doing nothing more than speaking out against the injustices that have run rampant in recent years in this once-great nation.
Those of us with small voices like mine do what we can to speak out against abuses by our elected officials, and social injustices. But those like Jimmy Kimmel in his recent series of clips against the abominable Graham-Cassidy health un-care bill, have much larger voices and reach a larger audience, thus they can be said to be actually making a difference. Colin Kaepernick is a football player of some fame, and as such, his voice is large. He made a choice to use that voice to speak out against racism and racial injustice in the U.S., his country. I applaud him and those who followed him, notably Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch. It is not only their right, but in some cases, their duty, their responsibility, to do so. Time magazine got it right when they said …
“The President of the United States tore into NFL players exercising their free speech rights with more conviction than he condemned white supremacists — one of whom allegedly drove a car into protesters, killing one of them — in Charlottesville.” – Time, 23 September 2017
I find it encouraging that Kimmel, Kaepernick, Bennett and Lynch are standing with courage by their beliefs, standing for the values they support. Some have said that by failing to stand for the National Anthem they are somehow denigrating the veterans who have fought for the independence of this nation. I say that nothing could be further from the truth … the right to stand up for what we believe in is precisely and exactly what those veterans fought for. They did not fight for the right of white cops to shoot and kill unarmed African-Americans. They did not fight for Donald Trump’s right to condemn millions to live without adequate healthcare. They did not fight for the United States’ right to deny climate change and thus shorten the lives of mankind on earth. They fought for us to be able to speak out, to maintain our constitutional freedoms, the right to ensure that our government is working for us and not against us.
Donald Trump has it all wrong, but then what else is new?