I wasn’t going to write about this, but it has dragged on far beyond the one 24-hour news cycle it deserved, so I can’t ignore it. Let’s acknowledge the obligatory nod to San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick’s civil right to protest his grievances in whatever peaceful way he chooses, even in so ignorant and ungrateful a manner as he chose–to disgrace the anthem recognizing the symbol of the regime that makes possible this and other rights unprecedented in human history and those who fought and died to defend them.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the response. First, if I owned an NFL franchise, I would go to the locker room before the next game and say this:
“Gentlemen, you are about to take the field to play a game for which you are paid by me as your employer a significant amount of money. When you do so, you are representing me, my team, and my city. Your grievances are your business, but your job is my business, so if the airing of your grievances of whatever type extend to ignoring or otherwise disgracing the flag of this country and the anthem that pays homage to it while on this field, you will not play another down for my team, beginning today. Effective immediately, the applicable team rule is that when the national anthem is played, you will stand straight and salute with your hand over your heart. Singing is optional, but preferable. Any questions?”
As for other, non-employer/employee relationships, The University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven had the most comprehensive response in the form of a letter sent to the presidents and athletic directors of all University System schools. This was a follow up letter to one sent earlier prescribing the proper conduct of college athletes during the playing of the national anthem, and in it, in part, he said this: “I spent 37 years defending freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Nothing is more important to this democracy. Nothing! However, while no one should be compelled to stand, they should recognize that by sitting in protest to the flag they are disrespecting everyone who sacrificed to make this country what it is today–as imperfect as it might be……..The flag rode with the Buffalo Soldiers. It was carried by the suffragists down the streets of New York City. It flew with the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. It was planted in the fields where Cesar Chavez spoke. It marched with Martin Luther King, Jr………….It is a flag for everyone, of every color, of every race, of every creed, and of every orientation, but the privilege of living under this flag does not come without cost. Nor should it come without respect.”
The editors of National Review remind us that freed slave Frederick Douglass wrestled with a similar problem in a July 4th speech in 1852, when slavery was in full flower, and he said “the existence of slavery brands your republicanism as a sham”, but then went to say that the Constitution was a “glorious liberty document. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? Or is it in the temple? It is neither.” I suggest that Douglass had a much deeper understanding of the stakes than anyone today kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL game, yet for America and its ideals he did not despair.
It has been said that this is a “teaching moment”. Well, yes, but I consider it a “teaching repair” moment. Over the past several weeks these protests have reached a number of copycat high school and even middle school games. This is a tragedy, unfortunately led by adults who should know better. But a big part of the problem is in education, where there has been major emphasis over the past several decades on the pathologies of our history over its ideals and where multicultural ideologies value class, racial, gender, and ethnic identities to the detriment of our national civic identity. This is a problem that is chipping away at our civic cohesion and it deserves much more of our attention than it is currently receiving.