If you think standing is the only sign of respect you missed the lesson about how true patriotism is respect of the Constitution … which, by the way says nothing about a flag or anthems or pledges but whose Bill of Rights begins with First Amendment guarantees of Freedom of Speech, the Right of The People Peaceably to Assemble, and to Petition The Government for a Redress of Grievances, all of which are being practiced by those kneeling, and whose act of kneeling is in support of the proper upholding of Amendment 6, for example, which requires a fair an impartial trial by jury rather than death by cop, or Amendment 14 which guarantees due process rather death by cop, or Amendment 8 which guards against the cruel and unusual punishment such as of death by cop, and so on.
Then again, if you knew your history of why flags, banners and other emblems are are used, you would understand their historical significance was one of propaganda. Flags were used, in part, because plebes, serfs and other peons lacked the intellectual wherewithal and emotional maturity to support amorphous ideas but could be easily convinced to be subservient to tangible things. Thus flags become an approximation and a physical fixation of these more highly intellectual ideals that were being most acts of military aggression themselves.. Manifestations, like flags, became the tangible embodiment of ideas for those who lacked the ability to fight for the abstract. After all, would most serfs go to battle over a breach of contract or question about easement rights? No, but if you told them that the needed to fight for this piece of colored cloth because it represents the honor of their home it was so much easier to mobilize them. Flags became the communication tool to remind troops which side they were on, when that side should advance or retreat, had won or given up. It’s a simple device for simple people.
So, I ask, is it the cloth of a flag that’s important or the ideology of the Constitution? Or, rather, if you will: to plebe or not to plebe, that is the question.
If the history of flags aren’t enough, you should look up the use of songs in battle. It’s quite fascinating to understand how they too were primarily propaganda and used to create homogenization, to instill loyalty and provide orders and commands (both on and off the field of battle). Like with banners, flags and other iconography songs were a simpletons way of identifying with and feeling unity around an abstract idea and later particularly among those lacking reading skills to be able to comprehend documents such as declarations of war and peace treaties songs became the primary way to follow what was going on.
But, enough of why flags and anthems attract modern anti-intellectuals due to their historical tribalness.
Lets be quite clear upfront too: what we actually have in the Star Spangled Banner is an violence glorifying and racist poem set to an ememy’s drinking song that was distributed to become a propaganda tool.
Here some fun, and oft overlooked, facts: In the War of 1812, many slaves fought for the British in exchange for their freedom. This angered Francis Scott Key, who believed “mentally inferior” black soldiers had gotten the better of the US. He included these lines in the 3rd verse of the Star Spangled Banner:
“Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”
Furthermore, as National Anthems go, it is among the most violent sung in the world. While other nations celebrate their uniqueness and speak about their national pride the Star Spangled Banner idolizes the war torn flag in the heart of battle. It emphasizes the emblematic idea of the flag surviving as an allegory for a nation birthed in war beginning in 1776 and fighting until the Treaty of Ghent in 1815, nearly 40 years later, to have its independence acknowledged by the British on the world’s stage. While it probably makes sense to some that the song itself speaks of glory in battle, with rockets reading glare and bombs bursting in air, and the honor of military success but what it does is create an ideology built upon perceived valor and violence rather than one emphasizing actually being the “land of the free” it alludes to at the end of the first verse.
Key had little to do with the musical creation of the Anthem as we know it today, just the words.
After the poem began printed circulation, John Stafford Smith that decided to place Key’s war poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, over a popular British pub song “To Anacreon in Heaven” for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. No, there was no intended irony that an American poem was set to what’s essentially an English drinking song.
Smith set only the first verse to music and simply repeated it for subsequent verses. As is quite common, the first verse became the most widely known (for example, think about your favorite Christmas Carols, how many verses do YOU actually know and sing) due to lack of a chorus to come back to and the repetitiveness of the melody from verse to verse. It shouldn’t be overlooked that many of the printed versions for public sale were edited to the first verse which also helped obscure the subsequent lyrics.
When the US military adopted it as a hymn into it’s repertoire in 1889 it only utilized the first verse. Not only because that was the most commonly known among soldiers and the general public at the time, but also, in part because of the continued perceived lyrical controversy surrounding the latter versus in a post-Civil War era and the era’s leadership understood the scars the latter versus would irritate.
While adoption of the song continued to rise, the Star Spangled Banner wasn’t an early fixture in governmental affairs, schools, sporting events, or really many other public gatherings despite how ubiquitous we think of it today. The flag itself wasn’t consistently displayed to even be saluted in the first place until individual jurisdictions began writing local ordinances at the end of the 1800s in order to instill patriotism in immigrants during the immigration boom that began during that time. Those eventually were codified into State Laws at the turn of the century as the next wave of immigration began.
Did you know the Star Spangled Banner wasn’t adopted “officially” as the “National Anthem” until 1916 by Presidential resolution, 100 years after it was concieved? It was done, in part, to signify patriotism on the brink of WWI and in part to homogenize American culture in the face of a third wave of immigration. It didn’t receive statutory support until Congress passed 46 Stat. 1508 / 36 U.S.C. § 30 during an isolationist era of extreme nationalism in the 1931.
It was not without controversy even the time of formal adoption and that controversy continued to follow it throughout the last eighty years.
There were those that advocated for other patriotic songs both for lyrical content as well as singability. Compared to more folk inspired compositions, the Star Spangled Banner had proven difficult to sing due to a range of 19 semitones complete with large jumps as well as over the meter phrasings. This compositional nature made it specifically exclusionary to Anglicans who would have had a high level of exposure to those specific song styles while excluding former slaves still not formally educated in the early post-reconstructionist and the immigrant society that was disproportional southern European, eastern European, Scandinavian and Asian where those compositional elements are not used at all. There are those that feel by selecting such a difficult to recite anthem it was meant to demonstrate to certain segments of the population that they were not necessarily included in the national identity.
Before that a number of hymns were used by both the Armed Forces and in public displays depending on the circumstances and instead of becoming the benevolent and freedom loving nation that Philip Phile & Joseph Hopkinson sought to represent as he original Presidental March and long time defacto Anthem in 1789’s “Hail, Columbia”, or Samuel Francis Smith’s 1831 beautifully introspetive hymn “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” or that Katharine Lee Bates’s 1884 poem “America” (1905 repenned with music as America the Beautiful) defines, or Iriving Berlin’s 1918 classic “God Bless America” speaks of, or even, despite coming later, Woody Guthrie in 1940’s folk masterpiece, “This Land Is Your Land.” And, even though they lacked lyrics even John Philip Sousa marches encompassed. Instead during an era filled with fear and xenophobia between the great wars, the nation embraced a glorification of violent rhetoric.
Apart from those who didn’t particularly like the song The Star Spangled Banner itself, the idea of a national anthem, in general, drew ire from isolationists as well as those more generally against joining WWI and separately those against conscription (the mandatory military Draft as it was known at that time) since the idea of an anthem was steeped pro-war propaganda and the selection specifically of the Star Spangled Banner represented an emphasis on war inspired lyrics were a leading reason for it’s codification during wartime.
Furthermore, there were those on both sides of the early 1900s “communist” debate of the time that disliked having any anthem. Americans who were part of a pro-socialist movement domestically refused to acknowledge the anthem as it represented the oppressive government that just adopted the song. A minority of Americans who were anti-socialist at the time viewed the codification of the anthem as being communist in nature in that the government was forcing homogenization on everyone creating blind social unity rather than being a source of an independent nation’s pride.
Utilizing the Anthem as a form of protest continued through the WWII era. Students at a number of colleges and universities refused to stand during it citing the song’s “rabid nationalism” and the national effect of its use to silence anti-war protesters. Thematically, the song’s innuendo about war continued to draw protests through the Korean war in the 1950s and Vietnam war in the 1960s and 70s. Donald Sutherland, Gary Goodrow, Peter Boyle, and Jane Fonda took protesting the anthem and it’s nationalistic use in war propaganda on the road as part of a comedy troop routine. While Religious pacifists such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to participate in the anthem (and won an important protest decision during 1963 in Federal court).
But, it wasn’t just those protesting war propaganda and the anti-Nationalism movement that caused protests either. Anti-government protests directed at the Anthem in general, including over corruption including Watergate, budget allocations at a local and national level, economic issues including the Gas Crisis, and more were quite common through the 50s, 60s and 70s. Those anti-government protests covered a wide range of participants including counter-culture movements like Beatniks and hippies, students, human rights groups, unions, and more.
Furthermore both the later women’s equality movement and anti-Jim Crow equal rights movement regularly utilized anthem, pledge and flag protests to bring their to light their complaints about the government and American society. Many cited not only the nationalistic nature of an Anthem as a representation of a nation they wanted to change but in some cases citing The Anthem as song’s history and the context of its writing and later adoption, the interpretation of its content and its reputation among those who evoked it.
Continuing on, just like the Anthem, the Flag Code itself is a fairly modern affair. Prior to June 14, 1923, the founding of “Flag Day,” neither the federal government nor the states had official guidelines governing the display. And, that wasn’t fully codified until June 22, 1942 when the Code became Public Law 77-623; chapter 435. Additional elements defining the flag can be found 4 U.S.C. § 1 but the original text included no penalties for lack of adherence and most of the text has been updated, edited or changed since its initial inscription. Whereas 18 U.S.C. § 700 and similar statutes raise the prospect of penalties for not adhering to Flag Code most of it is unenforceable either through conflicts within the Code or due to Federal and Supreme Court decisions negating the penalties.
The saluting of the flag and performance of the Star Spangled Banner wasn’t a regular fixture at sporting events until the 1940s WWII era. While there are examples of teams using patriotic imagery at their games dating back to baseball in the late 1800s and the well documented 1918 World Series, the presence of the Flag Ceremony and singing o the Anthem really only took off in baseball in 1942 when the league consolidated the individual team approach. It wasn’t until post-war as a way to indoctrinate patriotism against the red threat that it spread to other leagues and became a fixture at events in general. Some leagues and many teams have mandated the performance as part of the game’s structure but fans are only requested, not required, to participate while in attendance. Generally, the players and franchise support staff, fall in a grey area which their conduct is reflected by the terms of their employment contract.
While nearly all have a behavioral clause next to none have a clause specifically about forced patriotic participation. the NFL only decreed only beginning in 2009 that all players had to be visible (though not necessarily standing) on the sidelines for the playing of the National Anthem (see note below on how that coincides with the DOD recruitment strategy) — Before that, it was a team-by-team decision and most teams had no mandate for it. This leaves teams with few measures for recourse for non-participation. In the NFL’s case it’s not even part of the Official Rule Book but instead in a suplemental “game operations manual” document and lacks defined recourse. Furthermore, both Commissioner Goodell and Operations Manager McCarthy are both on records stating variations of the rule is simply suggestion on behavior and it will not it will not punish players who don’t comply with the specifics of the suggestion.
While individual player contracts vary, the boiler plate edition of them includes no such provision about participation in specific pre-game festivities. Behaviors are generally outlined and include clauses about not making the organization look bad. However, legal enforcement of such clauses for off-field (non-game related) activities and protecting the franchise have proven difficult for most teams to enforce when having to confront them in the courts.
Furthermore, for some players their individual status is that of a celebrity and their personal brand can be carried as a legal counterweight to that of the franchise. Again, it’s a legal quagmire of dissenting interpretations as to what raises a player to celebrity status, when that celebrity status would superseded contractual obligations that render them unenforceable, and if there is recourse for such a breach if one did exist.
Thus, the “shut up and play ball” crowd actually works against themselves since the players are technically only being payed to play ball and thus all other non ball playing activities are extraneous. You can’t have it both ways – if you believe their job is to play ball, and they’re still getting on the field to play ball, than they’re effectively doing the job they were contracted for. If you believe they are representatives of something beyond just their on-field obligation in such that they need to participate in Government Paid Propaganda they you’re basically admitting they are allowed to more than just play ball. Interesting catch-22 to that viewpoint indeed.
The September 11 attacks brought a fresh round of patriotic displays into the mix. While initially intended as a bonding experience for the nation, by the mid-aughts the Department of Defense and National Guard recognized other uses for these displays. The two pooled advertising resources and began paying individual teams and subsequently the NFL as a league and other leagues to make a spectacle out of the flag and anthem as a recruitment tactic. These grand scale displays were not initially part of the pre-game festivities as aired. While some local broadcasts included it as part of their relationship with the teams the national broadcasts took several years before it became the standard formula for the pre-game broadcast. Previously, while the anthem was played it was a commercial break or occurred in the background of the in-studio portion of the pre-game show.
Since patriotism cannot be coerced by the Government using the paid performance of the Anthem as a form of advertising the Executive Branch further supported the DOD recruitment plan under the idea that it could help buoy the waining public opinion around two long wars in the Middle East. It generally worked, as the social pressure to conform during these grandeious, military laden displays easily hid the underlying propaganda they were created on. At this point the millions per franchise per season spend by the DOD are well documented by a number of sources.
The issue of forced patriotism becomes more complicated by the increasing international membership of all the leagues themselves as well as the active courting of international audiences by many of the leagues.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled against the idea of forced idolation during the height of creating these statuary acts of patriotism back in 1943 with West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, and for the ability to use the flag as a form of protest with Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 and reaffirm by United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310. It is generally accepted at this point the use of the Anthem, the Pledge, etc as well as the display of the flag is now up to the individual schools/districts, however, participation is completely voluntary for everyone — students, teachers, administrators, guests/visitors, support staff, etc. No one from the “government” can coerce anyone else into participating during any public display. It’s also understood these generally refer to the Government not making any coercive rules regarding forced patriotism there are few times where other patriotic coercion wouldn’t bump up against other related legal hurdles.
For example, it’s important to note, in this instance, the League is a private organization and not the Government. The League’s rules apply to the staff which the League employees and those rules must be laid out in writing in advance of being enforced. Notice that it only applies to the staff however and generally not to the attendees. Since many of the League’s stadiums are paid for with public dollars and owned in part by the Government the Supreme Court decision means attendees cannot be forced to stand regardless of what the League staff might or might not be obligated to do. It’s a legal grey area of the government can pay the league in which the league them requires forced participation. It becomes even grayer absent a clear league mandate if the broader clauses in many contracts are enforceable because of the celebrity status of the players, where the player is a brand in-and-of themselves and there is a potential deterioration of a players individual brand and celebrity status through coercion. The case law here is far from settled but there are examples of player brands superseding broadly worded behavioral clauses absent the clause defining explicit behaviors.
Furthermore, there is an important implication regarding the application of the 1st Amendment as specifically pertaining to the Executive Branch’s (both through the President himself and his White House Staff, especially press secretary Huckabee Sanders) behaviors that endorse the firing or other discipline of players. While tweets and press conference statements technically do not hold the weight of law in-and-of themselves, and thus likely don’t fall directly in the path of the First, it is possible that if someone were to interpret the tweet as a command, a direct order from the President, and act on it that the tweet itself could be interpreted as now holding a similar weight as that of any other Executive Order — ultimately, this is a grey area for a court to decide. However, from a purely statutory point 18 U.S. Code § 227 holds that the Government cannot “wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions … with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation” The NFL is a private entity, the players are it’s employees and in a hyper-partisan world of politics there are going to be those who view employment moves through a partisan prism — again, ultimately, this is a grey area for a court to decide. Finally, there’s an ethical grey area in terms of the Executive Branch’s own Code of Conduct in the endorsement of player firings. While not holding either the Constitutional weight of the First or the Statutory weight of the US Code, the Code of Conduct prohibits this type of behavior and includes a censure route for those who break it.
Of course, if this were REALLY about respect for the flag and so-called patriotism you would demand equal enforcement for all of Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1) and not just cherry picking what respect means. And yet there was no protest for President Trump caressing and kissing the flag, or Conservative talking head Tomi Larhren wearing the flag, or right wing firebrand entertainer Ted Nugent desecrating it in his own faux patriotic way. That’s of course, because these Alt-Right, Republican idols are allowed to be part of a larger double-standard in the culture war being they are whites.
Kaepernick explained his protest: “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.” Several other players who have joined the protest have quoted Kaeps own explanation as well as planks from the Black Lives Matter movement and past civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who also knelt in defiance, and former Army officer Jackie Robinson, who stated in his 1972 biography, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
This is not about disrespecting the “flag” — this is about equal respect for ALL US Citizens specifically by the US Justice System, including that of local Police Forces.
Why is this an issue for “rich” NFL Quarterback? Because he is a dark skinned, bi-racial man. And, because his position as a Black NFL Quarterback affords him an opportunity to cast light on something very wrong in the justice system right now that the average citizen doesn’t have the same capability to do.
There are well documented, systemic, race relation problems within the Justice System and this is what Kaep is exercising his 1st Amendment Rights by protesting: which entails the use of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. He is well within both the rules governing his employment and that of his responsibilities being a US Citizen to take a knee.
Because, according to the FBI’s Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015 there has been a significant rise in White Supremacist affiliation within local jurisdiction police forces, including the KKK, neo-Nazi organizations and para-military right wing White Nationalist militias. The original concern was reported as far back as a 2006 redacted public memo assessing the problem. Because, according to the FBI’s own crime stats for jurisdictions reporting instance of police brutality there’s been a significant increase in the rate of police misconduct incidents alleged against black citizens over the last ten years and even they admit it likely has little to do with changes in reporting protocol. A 2009 DHS report also assess a very similar pattern of behavior. While independent organizations like DT Analytics, a consulting firm that analyzes domestic extremism, says the problem has since gotten “a lot more troublesome.”
Because individual department’s own records about racial profiling and targeting resulted racial biases in written warnings, tickets and arrests that were exposed through investigative reporting by both the press and independent researchers leveraging FOIA receipts, through the results of contentious lawsuits, and through internal audits that became part of the public record other ways. NYC was forced to confront it’s controversial stop and frisk program. NJ State Troopers were forced to change protocol regarding highway profiling. LAPD was forced several times to address their approach to policing minority neighborhoods because of differences to that of richer, whiter ones.
Because individual departments, such as NYC and LA’s own records show an uptick in discipline against police officers due to accusations of misconduct against minorities over the last ten years. NYC’s problem was well documented by local investigative reporting by the New York Times and others local papers.
Because victims such as Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Samuel DuBose, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Sylville Smith, Terence Crutcher, Gregory Gunn, and many others represent only the high profile cases of police officers acting as executioners who were protected by victim blaming by the PBA, by the officer’s own attorneys, by the media and more — they are but the tip of the iceberg.
Because according to mappingpoliceviolence.org there have been nearly 1,000 death by cops so far this year, where Black people were 26% (261) of those killed despite being only 13% of the total population. 30% of police shootings involving black victims the accused was unarmed, for whites this occurs only about 19% of the time. What’s more, one third of black police shooting victims were actually suspected of a crime at the time of the shooting, whereas for whites it is nearly half were criminal suspects when shot – meaning a lot more likely innocent black men where executed by the police than what typically happens to unarmed and non-criminally suspect whites.
Because a corrupt and unaccountable system jailed Kalief Browder and 1,500 of the 10,000 others in Rikers for more than a year without being convicted of a crime (over 400 have more than two years without trials without formally filing criminal charges) where over 95% of those illegally imprisoned are minorities according to the City itself after investigations by the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Post and others brought the problem to the public. Furthermore, one in three inmates will be physically abused by Corrections Officers while on Rikers, some of which will be sent to solitary confinement before even being formally charged with the crime they were sent to Rikers for in the first place. NYC is hardly the only jurisdiction facing this issue either as exposes by the LA Times and Baltimore Sun uncovered similar situations.
Sadly, most cases of police brutality go unprosecuted. Officers are protected by their Unions, by District Attorney Offices that need working relationships with officers to prosecute other crime, by politicians that soften rather than strengthen statues and regulations in fear repercussion for taking a stand against flagrant misuse of power and even by a public that generally either fears retaliation by the police or blindly accepts their so-called authority. And, of those where charges are filed most will end up with a plea deal that allows the status quo to be maintained rather than setting legal prescient against abusive officers. Of the very few that make it to trial, the Justice System is stacked against the victims due to a number of regulations and court cases offering deference to even the most blatantly abusive of officers along with a Jury System that is skeptical of actually applying the law to officers in the first place according to analysis by groups like the ACLU, NCAAP and SLPC
The fact is the exact bigotry and racism Kaep is protesting has tried to hijack the conversation and turn it into disrespecting the Country … This is not about disrespecting the Armed Forces — again, this is about equal respect for ALL US Citizens specifically by the US Justice System, including that of local Police Forces.
Ironically, across all branches of the US Military in 2016 Blacks made up nearly 20% of those in service, significantly higher than their 13% of the general population. Ethnic, non-white minorities on the whole make up 42% of the armed forces. With such a high minority participation rate in the military it’s almost nonsensical that protesters who are minorities themselves would target the military as is being shopped around by ultra-right talking heads.
Furthermore, believe it or not, the Flag and the Armed Forces are NOT synonymous. The Flag exists in many, many parts of the Government and through out US society and is not regulated by or under the enforcement of the Department of Defense. There’s actually nothing at all in the DOD that has to do with civilian treatment of the flag or the Anthem or any other aspect of patriotism at all. The DOD’s only concern is in regards to how the military treats the flag itself and even that, most of it was established in the Reconstruction era post-Civil War when the military and government were both being reorganized and not as part of the nation’s birth in the 1700s or any as part of the founding of any of the individual branches.
Of course, if this were REALLY about respect for current and veteran military personnel you would demand better situations for them. You would care about the decades old problem with the Office of Veterans Affairs. You would care more about Veteran healthcare, be it coming from the VA or how statutory regulation over private insure affects them. You would care about the ongoing mental health crisis including addiction and suicide at rates well above the national averages. You would care about the survivors of past military exploits such as the testing of Agent Orange and continued use of Spent Uranium on and around troops. You would care about the ongoing deployment in America’s longest war, Afghanistan and the multiple redeployments of entire families due to these largely unnecessary decades long military actions. You would care about veteran homeless and jobless rates that exceed the national average. You would care that one of the top concerns about those returning from deployment is the reclamation to civilian life and how underaddressed even the most basic re-civilianization programs are being gutted by ongoing budgetary attacks built upon by deliberate mischaracterizations about the programs and their effectiveness. You would care more about the equal treatment of troops, particularly religious minorities, LGBT and women, during their service as well as the treatment of those who served the US Armed Forces as non-citizens. You would be focusing your energy there and NOT on false flag innuendo (flag pun intended).
You know how we know most of the #IStand people are full of shit? Because none of the major Veterans associations have reported any uptick in donations or volunteering since the anti-Kaep movement began. Because organizations that support those on active duty continue to report difficulties in raising funds toward their various missions outside of around major holidays. Because politicians continue to fund the wars themselves focusing primarily on contractual relationships with military providers while doing little to support the direct impacts on the troops themselves. Because Politicians proposing changes to Veterans services including cuts to the Budget, reducing accessibility and availability to services, and more have yet to receive the same kind of overwhelming public response like they experienced during other social justice campaigns (including recent campaigns regarding voting, marriage equality, bathroom bills, and more).
Furthermore, according to the Department of Defense enlistment is down for the military, not up over the last several months, continuing a decades long trend in disengagement particularly among whites. So many of these able bodied counter-protesters don’t actually care as much about protecting the flag as much as they care about racist dog whistles, otherwise, they would get up off their couch on a Sunday and put in their one weekend a month as a reservist.
It’s also notable that individual Active Service Members and Veterans , whose service in some cases dates back to WWII, have come out in support of Kaep’s protest, including formal editorials, through a hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick campaign and in personal social media posts. Many have stated quite explicitly they understand the protest for exactly what it is – a message of Justice for All – and even those that doesn’t “agree” with the tactic of kneeling for the anthem all state this is the type of act they fought for – not for a song, not for a piece of cloth, but for Rights and the Freedom to exercise them. While few formal Veterans Organizations have explicitly stated support several black and other minority Veterans groups have show varying levels of support for the protests. Technically, Active Personnel are restricted on political speech so more formal statements from the DOD are unlikely.
And, what shouldn’t be overlooked is many of those protesting are veterans themselves including Nate Boyer and Rory Fanning who are both highly decorated for their service.
And, of course, taking this full circle, “We were talking to [Boyer] about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from pride in our country, but keep the focus on what the issues really are,” Kaepernick said. “We came up with taking a knee because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country.”
Which, is to also remind you that sports and politics have ALWAYS been intertwined.
Franchise owners and their leagues work with politicians in order to finesses public financing, tax incentives, zoning variances, ordinance changes and more. Players unions have worked on contract law changes, tax breaks and more. Others, related And, politicians are all to happy to participate in this symbiotic endevour
Politicians use the sway of players and owners to influence voters through joint appearances and other events, as well as actively soliciting money from players and owners.
Owners, and even some players, used their political clout during the Jim Crow era to keep minorities out of sports … and when it became apparent that was no longer possible during the Civil Rights movement the pendulum swung and owners and players leveraged their place in society as part of integration.
As noted above, the leagues engaged in open propaganda by taking DOD advertising dollars to put on these displays.
Players have been protesting social issues for a long time as well, including all 21 black AFL players, at least 10 more white plaers at the 1965 All Star Game where the boycott forced it to be moved from New Orleans to Houston. The 49ers sponsored GLAAD in 2007 while Chris Kluwe and others led the initial, and often outspoken, player support for LGBT rights eventually leading to teams submitting amicus briefs for Marriage Equality and Transgender Equality (being against so-called Bathroom bills) as well as adding sexual-orientation protection to CBA in 2011. Carlos Delgado refused to participate in patriotic 7th inning stretch activities in 2010 since it “represented a war he didn’t believe in.” The St. Louis Rams team came out in support of the Feugerson Protests in 2014. And, of course, Marshawn Lynch often sat on the bench throughout his career for the same reasons Kaep knees now.
In 1968, U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and later Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett made the medal stand their social justice pulpit. Boxer Mohumud Ali was outspoken on equal right; The NBA’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stood up for religious rights.
And fans too have weighed in with political statements during sporting events. It not only included sits downs during the anthem in the late 1960s/early 1970s Viet Nam War protests but a number of other sitins and demonstrates during games and other sporting events. They continue today to carry signs and plaquards into stadiums and arenas cover all kinds of political speech. And, they themselves continue to be influenced by the actions of players and owners they personally enjoy too.
So, lets not pretend like this is something new and novel that’s happening. Politics and protest have a long, storied history in sports. They’re just not acceptable to a certain portion of the population when the topics go against what they chose to believe. After all, white conservative athletes who speak out politically like Curt Schilling and Vince McMahon catch very little flack by the people critical of Kaep now.
One final note… all this division is being stoked by Donald Trump.
When Kaep took a knee back in 2016 the majority of politicans had little to say about it. Then, President Obama stated, “I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation. But I also always try to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion. The test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights, is not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard,” he said. “We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with … As long as they’re doing it within the law, then we can voice our opinion objecting to it but it’s also their right.”
It didn’t take on the current political divisiveness until then candidate Trump decided to interject it into his campaign rhetoric. He’s since fanned the flames of discord around the NFL and such protests.
Apart from the obvious racist reasons … did you ever stop to think why Trump would focus on America’s “most popular sport” and culturally defining Sunday ritual?
Do you know Mr. Trump’s relationship with the NFL? Did you know he was a co-owner of the rival USFL back in the day and that he lead an unsuccessful lawsuit against the NFL in an attempt to merge the two leagues? Did you know he attempted to buy several NFL teams over the years including a highly publicized loss of the Buffalo Bills to rival businessman Terry Pegula? Did you know that several entrepreneurial players refused to participate in his reality TV shows after being invited? Even before Kaep’s protests Trump was already critical of the NFL for losing ratings by being “soft” specifically with the on-field product but also in regards to other player involvement in social issues, particularly during Marriage Equality.
It’s no surprise than a man as scorned as Mr. Trump would target the NFL. Kaep being black is the perfect racial dog whistle for Trump’s type of politics. So a bunch of white nationalist, klan sympathizing, alt-right leaning bigots followed Trumps call and have turned Kaeps protest from one of Equality, particularly in the Justice System, to that of national disrespect. And, the anti-intellectual masses fell right in line with the dog whistle nature of this approach, by focusing on, “Look at that disrespectful black man” while turing a blind eye to systemic police brutality and other ongoing, engrained inequalities in the justice system.
IF you don’t see this Tweet Storm as being a calculated move by Trump to divide and distract — maybe you should remember also the timing of his NFL attacks coincides with the end-of-September emergency deadline for repealing the ACA and that to-date Congress lacks the vote to complete the repeal. And, that these attacks supercede his response to assisting the US Citizens of Puerto Rico, a the territory primarily of hispanics whose political leanings are highly Democrat, as they recover from one of the worst natural disasters in US history.
Not that Trump’s bait-and-switch politicization of the protests should undermine the message of the protests themsevles. Equality IS imperative. If one of us is not free, than none of us are.
Support Equality. Ignore Trump. And join the many equality driven individuals who have given to organizations like the ACLU, NAACP, SPLC, and local chapters of the Black Lives Matter movement (to name just a few) in increasingly growing numbers because of the exposure Kaep and others have provided as a spotlight to injustice.