National anthem protests have been taking place all over the country this year. What pretty much started as one NFLer’s refusal to stand for the national anthem as a way to show his disdain for a “country that oppresses black people” has now turned into a way for people to get away with disrespecting our nation — and our flag.
You may have heard of said NFLer, Colin Kaepernick, who has sat down during the national anthem before football games. In August, Kaepernick explained his reasons for not standing to show his country respect.
“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. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said (via NFL.com).
And now, national anthem protests are being carried out by multiple athletes on various sports teams across the country. Some have chosen to take a knee during the singing of the national anthem. Others, like the Boston Celtics, have chosen to stand with their arms locked during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
For those who are unfamiliar, national anthem etiquette suggests that civilians face the flag and stand with a hand over their heart. It is also proper etiquette to remove a hat and to put down any food or drink you might have in your hand while the anthem is being sung. And while many of us will agree that any form of protest during our country’s anthem is disrespectful, it is not against any sort of law, according to ABC News.
“The Flag Code leaves out a punishment for violating its requirements, so there are no legal consequences for those who break its rules.”
A national anthem protest is a disgrace no matter how peaceful it might be. Deciding to take a stand (ironically by taking a seat) or attempting to get people talking about a specific cause (in many instances lately, these protests have been linked to the unjust killings of black men by white police officers or by the perceived systemic racial bias in the American justice system) by turning your back on your country — the very country that gave you the right to do so — is disgraceful even if you think that the cause is one worthy of attention (which, for the record, I agree that it is).
The latest of these national anthem protests came by way of the Boston Celtics. The team decided to lock arms during the national anthem before their pre-season game on Tuesday night. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said that this was the team’s way of showing a unified front.
Y’know, because having them all stand there with their hands over their hearts doesn’t achieve that.
“We’ve had a lot of sit-down discussions about it. We’ve had a lot of individual discussions. We’ve had three or four meetings after practices, sometimes just players, sometimes just us, sometimes people we’ve invited in from the outside to spend time with our guys. Our guys have been incredibly thoughtful and I think, like from what I’ve seen across the NBA early on, I think our guys are really focused on promoting positive unity, togetherness, progress, and all those types of things. But those have been, as far as deep, certainly good discussions, they’ve been great. And I commend our guys for sharing and for thinking and for really looking at this in a really insightful way,” Brad Stevens said.
He continued, “I think one of the great things about being a part of a team is you all come from different backgrounds and you learn about each other and you all come together for the common cause, and that’s why we all love sports, right? We can all rally around that common cause and we can rally around teams. But I think when you really get into deep, impactful stuff, those are special conversations and sometimes those are uncomfortable and sometimes there can be tension around those, but I think that’s the beautiful part about our group, is that they all appreciate one another, really support one another. And again, I think you’ll see, like I think they’re very much into what the teams that I’ve seen thus far, in talking about togetherness and continued progress.”
Don’t get me wrong. A sense of unity is beyond what our country needs now more than ever. And I love that the players — black and white — were a part of this human chain. But doing such a thing during the national anthem is simply not the time, and it doesn’t accomplish anything. Take a photograph with your arms locked after the anthem. Do it at halftime. Hold a moment of silence and go out onto the court and lock arms. Start a movement — a real movement.
Taking a stand by disrespecting your country and its flag does nothing for anyone. The flag didn’t do anything to you. America didn’t do anything to you. Stand up for what you believe in, but remember where you came from. America is great because of people like you and like me. Because we can all have our opinions and we have been given ways to express those opinions thanks to the groundwork laid by our forefathers. If you love your country and you’re proud to be an American, stand up for that, too.
Pick your heads up, boys, it’s time to make things happen.
If the Boston Celtics want to do something to raise awareness, why not have them donate money to a charity that benefits their cause? Why couldn’t the team have meetings about starting a unity campaign? Get the community involved. Do something tangible in place of your empty gesture.
Instead of concerning themselves with making a statement, these guys should be thankful they live in a country that gives them the opportunity to do something about things that bother them. Men and women have fought for their freedom, never once thinking to cross their arms and let the enemy win. Fathers and mothers have lost sons and daughters — children have lost moms and dads — just so that you could have the freedom to lock arms during the national anthem. The very song that unites all of us whether we like it or not.
Think about it.
[Featured Image by JoanBudai/iStock]