In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2018 at 12:35 am

A war is flaring in football stadiums across the country.

It’s a symbolic war—with football players literally “taking a knee” on one side and with President Donald Trump and his Right-wing minions symbolically waving the Stars and Stripes on the other.

And it’s fueled, on both sides, by a stadium-sized dose of hypocrisy.

For players, “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football game means protesting against racial injustice and police brutality aimed at blacks.   

For the Right, refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” is unpatriotic, perhaps treasonous. They claim it’s insulting to the military—and especially those soldiers who have died in America’s wars.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on August 14, 2016. 

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Colin Kaepernick 

During the 49ers’ first game of the pre-season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem both then and in their next game.  

On August 26, he did so again. The next day, he explained his reason for ,it: “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.” 

On August 29, Trump—still a Presidential candidate—thrust himself into the budding controversy: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.” 

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Donald Trump

One year later, on August 12, 2017, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement. 

The next day, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the anthem. He gave as his reason the “Unite the Right” rally of white racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On September 17, Trump—now President—told a rally in Alabama that refusing to sing the National Anthem showed “disrespect of our heritage. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” 

On September 23, Trump, on Twitter, called for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired. Later on in the day, he called for a boycott of the NFL. 

On September 24, infuriated by Trump’s insults, NFL players across the country linked arms, took a knee, or stayed in the changing room during the National Anthem. Every game featured some form of demonstration.

Since then, the confrontation between players “taking a knee” and Trump and his Right-wing shills has mushroomed. 

Oakland Raiders Kneeling

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

During 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings; 223 blacks were shot and killed by police (23% of all fatal shootings), and 68 of the victims were unarmed. 

Yet these protests have not led one police department to change its “use-of-deadly-force” policies. No State legislature has offered reform legislation. Nor has Congress.

Blacks are still getting shot by trigger-happy police—often while they’re unarmed and unresisting   

So where does the hypocrisy come in? 

On the part of the players:

  • These protests have caused police shootings to be largely forgotten—while the kneeling players are claiming the media’s attention. 
  • The kneeling players consider themselves heroes—and are considered heroes by many within the black and white communities.
  • Yet there is nothing remotely heroic about kneeling for about a minute before you’re about to earn tens of thousands of dollars just for knocking a ball around a stadium. It’s a cheap and easy way to win applause while risking nothing.
  • These players’ celebrity could be put to far better use by appearing before legislative committees urging reforms in police “use-of-deadly-force” policies

On the part of the Right:

  • Donald Trump, for all his boasts of patriotism, was a five-deferment draft dodger during the Vietnam war. Four deferments cited academic reasons and the fifth cited bone spurs—which usually result in small pointed outgrowths of bone—in his heels.
  • Many of those attacking the patriotism of the kneeling players have similarly refused to enter military service.
  • Standing for the National Anthem is likewise a cheap and easy way to declare yourself a patriot.
  • It’s akin to taking forced loyalty oaths: You take the oath, “prove” your integrity—and can then betray national security secrets almost with impunity.

Finally, there is one truth takes precedence over all others: There is no reason to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at football games—or any other sports event  

The reasons:

  • There is nothing inherently patriotic about attending any sports game:
  • The country isn’t being threatened.
  • No one is risking anything in its defense.
  • There are no casualties (save those suffered by athletes earning kingly salaries).
  • No one’s life is made any better by watching the game—or the protests.

Police brutality remains a serious matter.  But “taking a knee” and its opponents most definitely isn’t.

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