I don’t even know if I have this right. My understanding is that the reason Colin Kaepernick chose to #TakeAKnee for the National Anthem had to do with racial injustice and what appeared to be a rash of incidents in which black men were killed by police, sometimes for doing nothing but always without due process. Believe me when I say that I wholeheartedly support law enforcement. But some cops are, frankly, assholes. I’ve met some of them. Most cops are good people, I believe. But I’m not sure when selling loosie cigarettes or jaywalking or reaching for your ID after being instructed to do so by police became a crime punishable by death, without benefit of trial.
Colin Kaepernick no longer plays in the NFL, so any #TakeAKnee protest he’s doing is not on the sidelines of a professional football game.
However, conservatives decided to take on this issue and make it far more relevant than it would have otherwise been. And the whole thing exploded this past weekend after Donald Trump referred to any NFL player who exercises his First Amendment rights on the football field as a “son of a bitch.”
Trump’s specialty: Calling people names
My first thought had much less to do with whether anyone stands or doesn’t stand for the National Anthem and more to do with his words following the murder of a young woman in Charlottesville by a white supremacist who ran her down with his car. I don’t recall Trump referring to that individual as a “son of a bitch.” Likewise, he did not express views similar to his Charlottesville comments and recognize that there is blame on “both sides” or that there are “some very fine people” on both sides.
No, Trump played squarely to his base, and in the process dragged the NFL into a controversy that actually has nothing to do with them. As a private employer, the NFL has every right to impose rules on their employees. I’m no lawyer, but I presume that includes the right to tell players they are required to stand when the National Anthem is played when they’re on company time. But NFL owners have chosen not to. It is their choice to make.
The problem with Trump is that, unlike other presidents, who have recognized that there is a world that exists beyond what they can see on their 70″ TV screen, Trump is obsessed with the media he claims to hate, and he has a particular beef with the NFL, a club so exclusive that even he could not buy his way in.
Making a statement
When I saw Jerry Jones, an ardent Trump supporter, march onto the field with his entire team and #TakeAKnee before the Anthem was played, I was astonished. People, especially those who live in Jerry World, do not do things for no particular reason. Make no mistake: That was a statement.
We have people taking sides and insisting that everyone must stand for the Anthem. Veterans, who themselves have been dragged into this controversy, have expressed feelings on both sides. One young woman wrote in reply to a Facebook comment I made that she was certain not one single Cowboys player would #TakeAKnee during Monday night’s game, because the Cowboys are “special,” “a team like no other.”
Give me a break. And no, in case you’re wondering, I did not go back to the thread to see how she felt about the entire team, including their Trump-supporting owner, taking a knee in a clearly symbolic gesture.
As I wrote in a previous post, forced patriotism is a lot like forced religion. When you force someone to “show respect” for the flag or the National Anthem, using their job as a weapon, it is not patriotism at all. If people want to burn their NFL jerseys over the issue, who cares? (By the way, folks, those jerseys you’re burning? The NFL already got your money. And you know what else? What you’re doing is called protesting, and as long as you don’t set anyone’s house on fire while you’re doing it, the same right to free expression that you’re exercising also protects NFL players who choose to #TakeAKnee.)
I will keep my seat
So, here is what I have decided, as a direct result of this ridiculous attempt to force people to stand when the National Anthem is played. I refuse to do so. There has never been an occasion in my life when I have not stood for the flag or stood as the Star Spangled Banner was played at an event. (No, I do not stand in my living room and neither does anyone else, and if they tell you they do, they’re lying.) At a football game following September 11th, I was in tears as the colors were displayed.
But as long as Donald Trump occupies the White House, I will not stand for the National Anthem. It’s not because I don’t respect and love my country. Quite the contrary, it’s because I do. And Trump is making a mockery of this once proud nation, and I — pun intended — won’t stand for it.