National Anthem Protests

I haven’t been eager to address this controversial topic here on SportsIntel, but after things reached a crescendo this weekend (man, I hope that was the peak of the madness), I now find myself compelled to write. I don’t think I have anything groundbreaking to say and I don’t think anyone will find my thoughts particularly contentious. If you want fresh takes on the issue, happy hunting! If you want contentious discourse, that’s extremely easy to find.

So, my suspicion is that I don’t really have a strong opinion about what people do before the game starts. But maybe I am just trying to be apolitical or simply bury my head in the sand. In order to get to the bottom of what I am interpreting as general apathy, I propose a little Q&A with myself. Here we go:

Q1: Is it possible to be respectful to the flag/the military/the United States without standing and putting your hand over your heart?

A: Yes, I believe you can. Kneeling isn’t the end of the world. It’s not double birds aimed at the flag. It’s not turning your back on the flag. At least the “kneelers” are stopping to recognize that the anthem is playing. I see people at stadiums all the time that can’t be bothered to stop when the Star Spangled Banner starts. They’re not being overtly disrespectful, just rushing to their seat with a beer and some nachos or wandering clueless around the concourse.

Q2: Is it acceptable to disagree with what someone else is doing during the anthem?

A: Sure. Disagree all you want, but be respectful. As covered above, not everyone at the stadium stands up, faces the flag, takes off their hat, and sings all the words. That’s ok. (BTW: I’m a veteran. My wife is a veteran. My friend group is mostly made up of veterans. We all feel differently about this despite our common thread of military service, so bear in mind that respect for the flag and the outward display thereof are actually rather personal matters.)

Q3: Can an employer fire you for doing something they don’t like even if that thing is completely legal?

A: Yup, free will is all around us brothers and sisters. We are, however, accountable for what we do, and sometimes others will act unfairly or unethically toward us based on our actions. It feels incredibly unjust, but it’s the reality we live in. To those who jeopardize their jobs in the name of change, I salute you. I recognize that not everyone has the necessary resolve, but it’s probably good that some people do.

Ok, I think that little exercise yielded a verdict (for me at least): Keep your politics out of my football. I have heard people speak passionately and compellingly on both sides of this issue and I’m glad that there are people who care. Hell, I admire those who are willing to draw their own personal line in the sand. I’m sitting this one out though, and, if that pisses you off, I accept your right to be upset that I don’t feel as strongly as you want me to.

In closing, I hope the players who feel like I do aren’t being forced into doing anything they don’t want to do. I hope they can maintain their friendships without sharing the impassioned opinions of their teammates. I imagine there is immense pressure to pick a side and I hope no one is unfairly painted as a racist or a bigot or un-American or unpatriotic simply because they choose not to get involved. And—finally, selfishly, insensitively—I hope that I don’t have to share my Sundays with this debate forever and that it eventually moves along.