Action and Reaction with Colin Kaepernick
Our national anthem was occasionally played at baseball games dating back to the late 1800’s, but the bond between sports and our national anthem would become most famous as the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox played Game 1 of the World Series in 1918.
The Sox were up one to nil in Chicago with an abnormally quiet crowd. During the seventh inning stretch, the military band that was on hand struck up the chords to ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and the crowd reacted positively for the first time all game.
Sox first baseman at the time, Fred Thomas, was on furlough from the Navy and quickly snapped into a military salute and faced the flag. The rest of the players followed suit, by taking off their hats and placing their hand over their hearts. When the game returned to Boston, the Sox front office insisted the anthem be played before the game to set the tone for a more vivacious audience.
The symbolism of the American flag waving in the gentle breeze before a sporting event gives us time to reflect on all our soldiers, police force and other civic duty enforcement teams do for us. It’s a shame that the national anthem isn’t played more often, maybe before every movie at the theater or by the whole country every day at 5pm Eastern Standard Time — instead of just before a sports game. It’s almost never played outside a sporting event, saved for the 4th of July.
The national anthem is played loud at ball games, proudly and almost defiantly. For big games, the performance of the anthem is televised as the camera pans the stands full of serious and sometimes even dour faces with their eyes fixated on the American flag. When these moments are televised it is only assumed that the casual fan at home is standing too.
While Colin Kaepernick kneeled the rest of the stadium stood, but was the fan at home standing with hand over heart, singing along with the words, staring intently at the televised flag?
When Lady Gaga sang the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl, did the 112 million people watching at home stand up?
One would only assume so, as the backlash from the general public would certainly indicate this as true. If someone didn’t stand while at home, is that considered protest? Or is it only in public that you are required to stand during the anthem?
Kaepernick has done the one thing that all Americans hate the same; make us feel uncomfortable in our own home. His kneeling became an awkward moment as the country gasped, his protest aimed at the serious racial undertones recently ululated throughout America’s cities — big and small.
It’s no surprise that Kaepernick has had the incendiary comments equal his praise on social media and no surprise that he grabbed the country’s attention. He has even recently started to receive death threats. The public ire towards him seems misdirected; it is reaction to reaction instead of pro-action. Colin Kaepernick is reacting to widespread violence and the public is reacting to Kaepernick’s reaction.
This only creates a stalemate as the country chooses sides and stands on one side of the line or the other.
America glorifies sports. If we didn’t, then Colin Kaepernick’s actions would have never held any weight. After all, he is just a backup quarterback. As the wave of kneeling spreads around the country from college to high school, it is all at sporting events, all searching for reaction, all clamoring to become part of the conversation.
Anyone can now join the malaise, simply by choosing to kneel or shouting at those who do as your public statement is made — setting yourself on one side or the other, proudly part of the listless and plan-less.
It would’ve been best if Colin Kaepernick already had renowned community activist Deray McKesson involved and his kneeling was supposed to draw attention to a foundation started in the off season, launching a program to help initiate change in America. Simply donating some money afterward isn’t enough to cease the public anger and debate — and the NFL is all too happy to see increased jersey sales as more money goes to the top.
It would have been best if the other side listened quietly to those who are kneeling, showing compassion for what they are silently trying to say.
Both sides have so much in common.
The fan who demands that everyone stand for the national anthem, including the ones sending death threats, is deeply rooted in their beliefs, much like the ones who are currently refusing to stand; they are rooted in a different set of beliefs.
Both feel intensely passionate about their beliefs and both sides should empathize with each other on this simple fact alone. Instead, we stand divided insisting that winning the discussion is more important than having it.
This isn’t sports.
We are all supposed to be on the same team and right now, we are all losing.