I was going to keep quiet, I swear I was. I spent all day scrolling past Facebook posts from those vowing to boycott the NFL, ranting about the disrespect that these players are showing the Greatest Country In The World and all those that have fought and died for it.
I was going to, but I can’t. Maybe it’s the bourbon talking, but I can’t.
I stand for the National Anthem. My daughter stands for the National Anthem, even if it’s in our living room. She stands and I do too, because if I’m going to stand at the ball park, at the stadium, I should be standing at home also. Everything that the song stands for, that the flag stand for, it’s just as important here as it is anywhere else.
It’s what that flag, what that song stands for, that seems to have people divided. For some it’s irrevocably connected to the military, to the brave men and women who fight to protect it. To them, kneeling is a slap in the face to those soldiers. I don’t see it that way, but I get it, I understand why you’re upset.
What I don’t understand is the inability to recognize that not everybody makes that same correlation. The National Anthem doesn’t make me think of our military. I know it’s a military song, written after an American victory during the Battle of Baltimore during the war of 1812, but I’d like to think it’s a little bit more than that. Regardless of it’s origins, of it’s lyrics, to me the Star Spangled Banner, the flag itself, mean freedom, freedoms that we have here that others don’t.
One of those freedoms is to display displeasure with our country, with our leaders, with public policy without threat of repercussion. To be able to say “I don’t agree with this” and in theory for our elected officials to listen to those words and take them into consideration.
It doesn’t always work that way, those elected instead following whatever their political party decides instead of what their constituents want, but that is what is supposed to happen. That is what is supposed to happen and that is the foundation of democracy. The most real threat to our democracy, to the ideals that our country is supposed to be about is exactly that, the thing that we as Americans should be the most upset about, is that the people we elect to represent us don’t do that, don’t listen to what we are saying, don’t care what we have to say.
Colin Kaepernick had something to say. Whether or not you agree with what he had to say or how he choose to say it, he had something to say and other professional athletes followed his lead. They decided that there were things happening that they didn’t think should be happening in our country and decided to say so.
This is what that song they sat through is to me. Their right to do so. In a lot of other places they wouldn’t be allowed to do that, and that is what makes us better, makes us America.
Today a lot of NFL players kneeled when The National Anthem was played. Some of them would have kneeled anyway, a peaceful protest of what they see as injustice in our country. Many more of them kneeled because they were told that they shouldn’t, our President tweeting that these “sons of bitches” should be fired, later doubling down and saying that they should be suspended, that the NFL needs to do something to stop this.
I disagree but feel strongly that it is his right to voice this opinion. Just as I feel strongly that he doesn’t get to tell them that they can’t.
I feel that way because that is what this country is supposed to be. A place where we are allowed to disagree. If the NFL wants to negotiate a rule where players are required to stand and the Player’s Union agrees to this rule, than yes, they need to stand. Personal liberty sometimes is negated by the rules of your employment.
That presently isn’t the case.
I have friends, people that I consider brothers to me, in the military. I would not take disrespect to them lightly. Every professional football game that I have attended has included a tribute to our veterans, returned heroes honored and applauded. Nobody claps louder than I do. I’ve lost friends who were defending our country overseas. I don’t think of them when I hear The Star Spangled Banner, I think of them when I hear Taps. I think of them and I cry. I cry and I thank them for the sacrifice they made so that we can continue to be a country where we are allowed to make our opinions known.
This world is a dark place, bad things happening all over. Nobody can be outraged by it all, we choose the issues that matter to us and we try and do what we can to change that. I’m a white, middle classed male in Connecticut, my issues are going to be different from those of the athletes that I will continue to watch every Sunday and I realize that.
I realize that but in the America that I stand up and recognize every time that anthem plays I don’t get to tell anybody else what is important to them. I don’t get to pretend to understand their point of view, to tell them what they should be doing to try and change the things they want to change.
I stand up for that song because it means that they are allowed to kneel and to me that is what makes our country great. If you want to boycott the NFL, to not watch the games because these players are exorcising their rights to peaceful protest, that’s your right too. I won’t judge you.
I won’t judge you because that is what that song means to me.