The National Anthem and Super Bowl LII

Watching the Super Bowl this past weekend reminded me how much I love the pageantry of the game. In particular, as a young girl growing up in a football family, the opening of the contest with the singing of our national anthem made my hair stand up on my head. It literally gave me goose bumps. In fairness, I must also confess that singing “Oh Canada” did the same thing for me at Canadian games.

In the America I grew up in, football with all of its teamwork, timing, and competition represented everything that I thought made America great. The pageantry of game day and the singing of the national anthem were simply the physical manifestations of that greatness for those of us who could not play.

So in reading in the aftermath of Sunday’s game that viewership was down, in part the experts think because of player protests during the national anthem, I had to ask myself what is going on. Is it not our right as citizens to protest? Doesn’t the Constitution protect free speech, even if we don’t want to hear it? Do any of the rest of us have to pass a political correctness test to keep our jobs?

Professional football players risk their bodies and their minds to entertain us. They risk real things in the work place that many of us never have to contend with. Surely this gives them the power to have an opinion and voice it in a meaningful and respectful way. The act of kneeling during the national anthem has been one of the most moving and respectful ways I can imagine to do just this. Colin Kaepernick did not pick his form of protest randomly. He chose to kneel because African Americans have been kneeling in prayer for decades prior to marches and other public forms of protest. I respect and honor everyone’s right to make such choices.