“Please rise and remove your caps for the singing of our National Anthem.” If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, or any live event for that matter, you’ve likely heard this announcement prior to a rendition of Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner.
An act so habitual we often forget we do it, standing for the National Anthem has recently become a subject of heated debate. The controversy began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the National Anthem before an August 26 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
Following Kaepernick’s initial act, athletes across the NFL have followed suit. The gesture is a protest against the racial injustice and police brutality that plagues people of color across the United States.
I agree that Colin Kaepernick has every right to stand up for what he believes in and sit down for the National Anthem. I also agree that he is protesting for good reason – there is no place for racism and oppression in America. What I can’t agree with, however, is what took place this past Sunday as the NFL season kicked off.
I wonder if Colin Kaepernick considered that the first Sunday of the season fell on September 11 as he planned his protest? I wonder if he considered how horrible the attacks of September 11, 2001 still make people feel, fifteen years after the fact? I wonder if he considered the meaning of his actions on a day that, although forever tragic, now serves as a day of immense American pride?
It is understandable, then, that Kaepernick and his fellow protesters have been the subject of extra scrutiny since boycotting the National Anthem on Sunday. And as a New York City native who spent September 11, 2001 locked in my first grade classroom, I can’t say that I feel bad for them, at least not this time.
As the ringleader, Kaepernick could have cemented himself as a major player in the contemporary fight against racism had he acted a little differently on Sunday. Had he merely acknowledged the events of September 11, 2001 and those who sacrificed everything in the process, he would now be seen as a man both valiant in his beliefs and understanding of those who disagree with them. Instead, Kaepernick spent yesterday adding salt to the wound by retweeting those with him in protest.
Like I said, I have no problem with the gesture – freedom of expression is a fundamental value that shouldn’t be messed with – or the meaning behind it. What I can’t stand, however, is the blatant disrespect for so many people on a day that means so much.
So what’s next for Colin Kaepernick? I’m not sure, but since he lost his starting job, he’ll be sitting long after the next National Anthem ends.
On the bright side, at least he has more time to think of how not to screw up again.