— Pioneer Press (@PioneerPress) September 23, 2017
Interesting, isn’t it? The expectation that the NFL, the overwhelming majority of whom’s players are African-American, require its players to stand at attention during the national anthem couldn’t have anything to do with racism…could it? What I hear in such a pronouncement is the expectation that the players know their place; their 1st Amendment rights become null and void once they step onto the field.
Patriotism isn’t the property and playground of Conservative White Christians. NO ONE gets to decide who’s a patriot and who isn’t; nor should anyone be allowed to question another American’s love of country. In America everyone is guaranteed a voice; we all have the right to express ourselves. Does that mean we have the right to expect our speech and expression to be universally approved of and greeted with open arms? Of course not; free speech can be and (as I’ve often said) very often is crass, offensive, and/or objectionable speech. I often hear from those who disagree what my point of view…but that doesn’t provide them the right to stop me from expressing myself.
Professional athletes don’t forfeit their 1st Amendment rights when they step onto the field of play. No one gets to tell them to shut up and play. We don’t have to like their chosen means of expression, but how about looking at if from this perspective: Since when does the national anthem truly mean anything? It’s become a rote, reflexive recitation of words which long ago shed their meaning. Standing for the national anthem has become a hollow exercise in reflexive and mandatory patriotism. We do it because…well, because it’s what we’ve always done. To not do it is to some unthinkable, but that expectation has nothing to do with patriotism. It’s become a social expectation, a mandatory public performance- and some “patriots” can’t stomach the idea that some may not feel as they do. After all, REAL Americans stand for the national anthem…right? How can anyone who refuses to do so make any claim to patriotic fervor?
Love of country doesn’t come in one flavor. It’s entirely possible to love your country while being incensed by what’s happening in it. Patriotism may have a dictionary definition, but its practical application can’t be held to be the domain of any one person, group, or ideology. Those who took a knee love their country every bit as much as those who demand athletes reflexively stand at attention during the national anthem.
In fact, an argument could be made that those who took a knee yesterday love their country enough to want it to be better and more inclusive- but that would mean “patriots” recognizing the 1st Amendment rights of professional athletes.
Nice work, America.