Ladies and Gentlemen: Please Rise for our National Anthem

As the National Football League completes its second weekend of action, much of the early season attention has been centered away from the field.  Of note, Tom Brady is currently sitting out the first four games due to his alleged role in deflate-gate.  On the field there have been game deciding field goals in the final seconds, either made or missed.  Spectacular catches have been made and improbable stars have begun to emerge.

There have been bone-headed miscues.  Terrence Williams of the Dallas Cowboys comes to mind for his week one gaffe in the game’s final seconds.  Facing the New York Giants and trailing 20-19, Williams made a catch and turned up field rather than attempt to get to the sidelines.  Going out of bounds would have stopped the clock and given the host Cowboys an opportunity for a game winning field goal attempt.  The clock hit zero well before quarterback Dak Prescott could line up the offense to spike the ball.  There would be no potential game-winning field goal try.  Instead Williams’ mistake sealed the Cowboys fate on that day.

The most glaring incidents thus far have occurred not during the games themselves but in the moments prior to kickoff.  Beginning with preseason contests, while virtually everyone else was standing, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has been found sitting on the bench while the national anthem has been performed.  He claims to be using this as a platform to protest the wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in our country.

Public reaction to Kaepernick’s position has been mixed and passionate.  Many supporting his sit outs have championed his right to express himself in how he sees fit.  They’ve brazenly exhibited the First Amendment.  As far as I know, no one from the government plans to have Kaepernick jailed or punished in any way for failing to stand for the national anthem.  I’ve haven’t heard anyone offer this suggestion either.  While the U.S. Constitution provides its citizens protection from the government, it does not protect one from the court of public opinion.

Kaepernick is right pointing out and to try solving the injustices of our country.  Anytime a country is made of people from the human race there will be faults and imperfections.  However, his refusal to pay tribute to our nation while the anthem is played clouds any point he is espousing.  Standing for the anthem does not mean turning a blind eye towards perceived or real injustice.  Standing and saluting does show respect for the country and those who protect and serve, despite our many warts.

There are so many other ways Kaepernick could choose to make his statement, ways that would say much more.  He should heed the examples of the many civil rights leaders who have paved the way before him.  He could stage press conferences or marches to draw attention to the causes he believes strongly in.

Others in recent weeks have followed suit, even on the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11.  Some have sat, while others have knelt down in protest.  Talk about being incredibly tone deaf as the nation reflected back as one on a day of infamy.  Despite our flaws, the United States has given him and others the opportunity to live a life they could not experience elsewhere.  Where else could they play this game and be millionaires many times over?  Nowhere.

The national Anthem is not about us individually but is about us collectively as a nation.  For that minute thirty-seconds or so we are not black or white, rich or poor, Republicans or Democrats.  We are Americans.  It is about paying honor to our nation, albeit imperfect.  It is about paying tribute to those who served our country and in some cases paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

Closer to home it is important that we turn our collective outrage into collective action.  Yes, many of us, self included, believe Colin Kaepernick is wrong for using the national anthem as a forum for his protest.  Let’s examine ourselves for a moment. How many times have we attended a local sporting event and have witnessed some in the crowd goofing off or not giving the flag and anthem due reverence?  Have we been bold enough to say something in those situations?  How many times have our own minds wandered while the Star Spangled Banner has been playing?  Has the playing of the National Anthem become too routine for us that we don’t think of what our flag and anthem represent?

One of the positives stemming from this controversy has been a renewed sense of reverence for our anthem.  At the games I’ve attended recently, I’ve noticed a greater level of attention given when the anthem has been played.  Maybe I’m imaging things but fans seem to be standing straighter and at greater attention since Kaepernick brought attention in this fashion.  This has been true of young and old alike.  Hopefully, this trend will continue.

Yes, we need to continue to use the positions we are in to fight injustices we see around us.  To fail to honor the national anthem is a slap in the face to all those who have served to protect the freedom to do just that.

Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..