I have been speaking up more than usual on the biggest issue surrounding the NFL right now: players sitting during the National Anthem. Until today, I did not think that I sided one way or the other, but I can now see clearly that I was mistaken. I want this post today to be an opening for discussion. I do not want to offend anybody, but I do see this a certain way which will be reflected in this post.
The number one thing I do not understand about this issue is as follows: why do I have to stand up and respect the flag when I live in a free country. Not giving me the option negates my freedom, doesn’t it?
Here is why I would choose not to stand, and whether these reasons are in line with those in the public eye who are sitting or not, I cannot say. What I can say is that from talking to close friends of various backgrounds (black, white, first generation Americans, immigrants…) I know that I am not alone.
- The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814 whereas slavery was not abolished (by law) until 1865. The Star Spangled Banner became the national anthem in 1931, and we only sing the first verse. The first verse hails the country’s flag, as does the second. It is not until the third and fourth verse that we hear mention of individuals. So, do we stand and sing for the flag or for the people who fought for it?
- Even after slavery was abolished, the nation remained segregated. People remained racist. My parents were teens during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Older generations continue, to this day, to pass their prejudices onto younger generations. My parents neighborhood, and a lot of neighborhoods in larger cities, are heavily segregated to this day. In the distance it takes me to walk to a bus stop one further away from the one I take in the morning, I could be at the projects from my parents’ house. I do not consider that “equality.”
- Not too long ago, every time I looked at the news another black man had been assaulted by the police. There were riots. There was looting. My city was on fire. I do not agree with the outcry, but what these men are doing during the anthem is peaceful. And yet, I think I have seen people even more angry about this than the former.
- We supposedly live in a free country where,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t sitting during the National Anthem collectively fall into, “peaceably assemble”? If so, are you trying to tell me that it’s alright to be upset about it as long as Congress does not disallow it?
- Do you even know why we stand during the National Anthem at sporting events? I’ll be honest, I just looked it up. Do you want to know the answer: happenstance. Look for yourself: (Click Here). If you don’t trust me, check the edited date on that article (2008) and the source (Mental Floss). It’s credible. Now, counter-argument, we stand during the Pledge of Allegiance and nobody is arguing that. Frankly, I stopped saying the Pledge years ago. Say what you will about me for that, but just know that it isn’t new.
- I know a ton of people, particularly from my generation, that do not know the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. I know plenty more people who don’t even know that Flag Day is a holiday. I also know people that see the Fourth of July as a day of parades and fireworks and watermelon seed spitting contests. Fundamentally, all four of these dates feed into the issues that you claim are being disrespected. Honestly, if you are one of the few who knows Memorial Day is for those who died during active duty, Veteran’s day is for those who have served in all wars, Flag day honors the adoption of the flag, and the Fourth of July is about our Independence from England, then please educate your friends instead of disregarding this bullet point.
When I began writing this post, I did not know I could come up with so many reasons. At the end of the day, there is definitely a basis for it in today’s America. Whether you stand for your country, the symbol of your country (which goes against some religious beliefs of mine, hence ceasing the say the Pledge), the men and women who served your country (to whom I am exceptionally grateful), or another reason, know that your neighbor may not agree with you. Know that your neighbor may not have agreed with you five, or even ten years ago; do not just assume they changed their mind because someone else did. Talk to people with an open mind. Even if you happen to disagree with another, you might say something that will change the way they think and vice versa. Finger pointing and name calling and swearing do not progress us. If you feel strongly about the issue, speak calmly but firmly. Try to find a middle ground. Maybe what you are accusing someone else of is not actually their intention, and maybe they do not even realize that.
I would be remiss if I did not mention this as well, I do not feel like I am treated as an equal in this country. I look around and I do not see equality in the schools, in the law enforcement (officers, judges, and juries), in the neighborhoods, etc. I do not have to support any form of peaceful protest to bring attention to inequality and oppression. I do not have to support any form of violent protest to shout anger about the inequality and oppression. However, I do have to acknowledge that inequality and oppression are alive and well in America today. I do not stand for that.