An Anthem And A Message
It would be almost irresponsible to let the Colin Kaepernick situation go by without some kind of comment–although to be fair, I’m not sure there’s really a comment to be made.
Colin Kaepernick: taking a stand by standing might be a better play.
As the NFL itself has pointed out, Kaepernick is under no obligation to stand for the national anthem. Nor is he an intractable villain for engaging in his protest, any more than Tommie Smith and John Carlos were in Mexico City in 1968. It’s quite simple: there’s a situation, a situation that Kaepernick feels deserves some attention, he chooses not to stand during the anthem to generate that attention–so be it. He has that right, so let’s demonstrate that we understand what it means to be an American by respecting that right.
I would point out that, in fact, Kaepernick could conceivably make an even stronger statement of his position by actually reversing course and standing and saluting during the anthem. And the proof of that could be seen during the just completed Rio Olympics.
I suggest this idea based upon my own personal reaction to watching several of the medal ceremonies during the recently completed Olympics. I found myself having a thought enter my mind every time I saw black American athletes stand at attention on the podium as the Star Spangled Banner was being played–and never more so than when the USA men’s basketball team received its gold medals. That thought?
“How many of those men, upon returning to the United States, will be pulled over for ‘driving while black,’ or be subject to unwarranted harassment by police officers, during the normal course of their lives–even after having won a gold medal?”
It is, I would suggest, a powerful thought to have. It leads one to have all sorts of secondary and tertiary thoughts about the nature of our society. About the lack of justice and fairness for some members of that society. About the hypocrisy inherent in sending young black men and women overseas to represent our country, and praising them for their efforts and reaping the pride that comes with their victories, and then allowing them to return to a social context in which they are one itchy trigger finger away from a tragic ending. And, it leads one to consider what it will take to improve that situation and create a fairer, more just society for everyone.
None of those thoughts would have entered my mind, at least in that moment, had Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and their teammates, and other members of the USA’s Olympic team, not stood and showed respect for the flag of a country that, arguably, shows so little respect for them and their kindred citizens so often.
Thus, it may perhaps be in Colin Kaepernick’s best interest–as a means for Kaepernick to deliver his intended message–to stand for the national anthem after all. If he sits the song out, all he is is invisible. But if he stands there, front and center before everyone watching, then he is a presence–and, having spoken his mind on the matter, a presence that is thus more difficult to ignore.