To Kneel or not to kneel that is the question…

Stand for the flag

I can remember a time long before Colin Kaepernick was a household name. Standing, sitting, or kneeling was not a partisan position.

My husband and I went to a Diamondbacks game when I was pregnant with what would have been our second baby. We climbed the stairs to the upper level of the stadium as I began feeling faint. We made our way to our seats and I was seated next to an Army Veteran. At that point, I began to feel so dizzy I could not possibly stand. As usual, we were all asked to stand for the National Anthem. I was not physically able to due to the dizziness I was experiencing.

I remember a profound uncomfortable feeling as if I were being rude for not standing for the national anthem. Inwardly I was feeling awful but there I was sitting through the whole anthem. It felt like such a lengthy song at that point. I felt as though I was incredibly disrespectful to sit through the entire anthem. The part that was especially convicting was that I was sitting next to a veteran who had to serve our country overseas. We went home and I ended up losing our baby, but the moment where I sat for the national anthem has always been something that continues to haunt me.

Fast forward a few years when Colin Kaepernick began sitting for the national Anthem. People we outraged and I could understand why. From my previous experience, I knew sitting for the national anthem was viewed as disrespectful. Standing for the national anthem was almost universally seen as a sign of respect for our country and for the men and women that have given their lives to defend our freedoms.

Kaepernick also had a reputation for other behavior that was viewed as outlandish at the time.

He wore a pair of socks with images of pigs in police uniforms. Those socks caused him to earn the titles of naïve and bratty, as well as being told he had a lack of understanding of law enforcement issues(Why wear specifically a pig image in association with the police unless the intent is to mock?). As the outcry against his protest was strong. Kaepernick discussed the issue with a veteran. He and the veteran decided together that they felt that kneeling would be a more respectful choice. Two key things were missing from their conversation, were the historical context of standing for the national anthem and the heart of the American people.

From a historical perspective, Americans choose to stand for the national anthem initially as a form of protest against tyranny.

From its inception, Americans choose to stand rather than kneel because of the symbolic image that is created when you kneel before a king. What Kaepernick failed to understand the history. Standing rather than kneeling was already a form of protest and a display of freedom. This practice goes beyond whoever is president or who is in control of politics at the time. Americans chose to kneel before no man. They had the belief that only kneeling before God is appropriate. The second thing that Kaepernick failed to recognize was that even though kneeling felt like the right thing to do in his own eyes, the public disagreed. The public did not understand nor relate to the rationale behind his choice to protest during the anthem.

The modern Interprettion

In present day, polling indicates the public opinion has shifted. Country-wide, a significant effort to defund the police has surfaced. Kaepernick has become a national hero among certain circles. The question of how kneeling is viewed in 2020 is debatable. Charles Barkley spoke on the issue and said “I’m glad these guys are all unified, but if people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear.” Barkley also said, “The national anthem means different things to different people.”

Other people may view standing for the national anthem as being disrespectful to the goals of the protesters. Jonathan Isaac is receiving fiery push back for standing during the national anthem. In an interview, Jonathan said, “I feel like the answer to it is the gospel.” I can relate to Jonathan’s viewpoint. I still feel like kneeling or sitting would be viewed as a form of disrespect for our country, as I cringe at the discomfort that I felt several years ago over this issue. The gospel and social justice were discussed in an early entry with a similar theme.

Kneeling is not the only change that we are seeing in sports.

Protests and COVID-19 have brought many changes to the sports arena. Black Lives Matter warm-up gear is now required by every major sporting event. The NBA also made headlines for having players that chose to stand for the national anthem. The basketball court at the Walt Disney World Wide World of Sports Arena now displays a large “Black Lives Matter” emblem.

The fans are notably missing from the sports arena, as we can look to baseball as they have replaced fans with cardboard cutouts(and awkwardly weird fake cheers and jeers) which are comically reminiscent of early sports video games from the 90s. The NFL is planning on paying homage to Black Lives Matter by playing the black national anthem. The song will play before America’s national anthem. One confusing part of the basketball games for non-sport savvy people is the names on the Jerseys. Peace, Justice, or BLM are used instead of the player’s name.

What does BLM stand for?

The phrase black lives matter, like kneeling for the national anthem, is another topic that means very different things to the person hearing it. Many people view the phrase black lives matter as a simple acknowledgment that black lives really do matter. Many recognize it as an endorsement of the black lives matter the national group or the political movement to defund the police.

The outrage surrounding the movement comes from the understanding that there is a clear effort on the behalf of professional sports to suggest that there is a group of people that are superior to other groups of people. A notion of a superior race like that should disturb people everywhere. Beliefs such as these were part of why patriots and freedom fighters fought to create America. In sports right now, whether kneeling or wearing apparel that mocks the police, the is a serious issue. It all goes against everything the United States of America is supposed to be about.

Like this post, if you will be standing for the national anthem. Share your thoughts in the comments.