It has been asked by several people I know, how the National Anthem came to be played at sporting events. This is a good question, and I think it matters, because history matters. So, a little history about the song.
In 1839, the song was authorized for use by the United States Navy, was recognized for use by Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and was finally made the National Anthem by an act of Congress in 1931.The use of the song at sporting events predates it being made the national anthem. A brief history then of it’s use in sports for those who are interested.
There were some recorded instances in the 1800’s but the first well known instance was during the 1918 world series. WW I was still going on at the time of the series, there was a bombing at the Chicago federal building (A Chicago team was in the world series) and many of the players were either veterans of the war or on furlough from the war. The first games were in Chicago, and the decision was made to play the anthem to honor the soldiers, veterans, and victims and survivors of the bomb attack. When the series moved to Boston for the games to be played there, the decision was made to have their band play the anthem for the same reasons. Both times it was done with recognition for the soldiers fighting, playing, and the wounded soldiers in the stands. Over the next two decades the song was played at holiday games and world series games. Once America entered WW II and patriotic fervor was at a height, the song began being played at more and more events, including sporting events as a way to lift spirits and encourage support for the war effort. In the 50’s some teams decided to only play it on special occasions and during the Vietnam era, many teams chose to play God Bless America instead. By the end of the Vietnam war however, it was well entrenched as a tradition. The NFL and NASCAR, for example, often honors veterans before the national anthem, though it is not always heard on TV. Many other sports do the same. The use of the National Anthem at sporting events has it’s roots in honoring veterans, soldiers, and the honored war dead, as well as civilian victims of terrible acts of violence. When most people express their opinion that it is disrespectful to not stand for the anthem, it is often because of the history of how it came to be played. I am one of those people in case anyone was wondering. I also find it rather disrespectful when the fans in the stands started booing during the anthem. I find it rather disrespectful when people sit instead of standing in the crowd. That’s the beauty of a free country in a lot of ways. We can all do and say things that others find disrespectful. Yes, I am aware that there are some for whom America has become a religion. I think they are the minority. Yes, there are some who are upset because it began with African American players protesting and for them it is a matter of racial bigotry. I think they are a smaller minority. Again, for those who care to know, I do not believe that half of America is racist. I also believe that there are actual racists. They just happen to be a very small minority of the population. The vast majority of the people who find it disrespectful are just as sincere in that belief as those kneeling and/or linking arms, are in their belief in what they are doing.
There is something else that needs to be said here I think. This protest has it’s origin in the NFL. The remarks made by the POTUS were out of line. They were not out of line because they are his opinion, or even because of what was said, but because when the POTUS, any POTUS, begins telling private business what they should and should not do in relation to how they treat their employees, it is a dangerous precedent. I do not want the executive branch to try and apply pressure to private business in how it disciplines or allows their employees to express themselves. I also don’t want the executive calling for boycotts against legal business in the US simply because he doesn’t like how the owners of said business are handling their employees. That is not the action of the head of the Republic. It scored him points with some, but it is not responsible, or good, for the nation as a whole. For the record, I felt the same way when former POTUS Obama was making statements about how the Washington Redskins should change their name. It is undue pressure on private business and smacks of attempted bullying rather than actual leadership.
As far as the protests themselves go, I do find it disrespectful. That is my opinion. I also find it admirable that the owners are allowing their players to express themselves in a nonviolent manner to try and draw attention to their cause. They are not violating any rules of the NFL, or laws of the Nation currently, so good for them. I don’t have to like their actions, agree with their claims, solution, or find it effective, to be able to appreciate nonviolent attempts to try and make the country a better place. We all should advocate for that which we believe in using the means that we can. Personally, I would much rather my sports be about sports, but that is not the world as it is now, and so be it. I still watch NFL games, still put my hand over my heart and remove my cap when the anthem plays, and I will continue to do so because that is what I find respectful. At the end of the day I am more concerned with how I carry myself than how others do. I am more concerned that I am showing respect than I am if someone else is. Frankly, I am way more worried about bigger problems in the country than who is kneeling and who is not. As to the effectiveness of the protests, they have only divided us more it seems. I think a far larger statement would be those same gentlemen standing for the America that they believe can be and honoring the dream that we all (OK the vast majority of us share) instead of kneeling for what is wrong. Over all, I am much more a fan of for something than against something, but again, that is just me.
We are angry and frustrated. Over a lot. Almost all of us. A lot of it is basically the same at the core. We see things that we think are wrong and going in the wrong direction. We feel like there is little that we can do to influence any of it. It seems like the government of the people, by the people, and for the people is slipping away. We are afraid that we are letting Franklin down, and proving unable to keep our republic. Sometimes we are angry and frustrated over how others are expressing their anger and frustration because it is not the way we express our anger and frustration. I mean, it seriously looks like we are trying to find new and unusual things to be angry and frustrated over. We would all do well to stop that. All to often we will find what it is that we are looking for, and right now it doesn’t seem we are looking for anything good. Right now, I think that a lot of us, maybe most of us, are angry and frustrated that the totality of American frustration has finally intruded on our bread and circus, and now there is no escape, even for an afternoon of football.
At the end of all this, I can only control what I do. I choose to respect the rights of others to do things that I find disrespectful. When the anthem plays, stand up, put your hand over your heart, and either sing along or silently reflect. Celebrate the history of why the song is played. Celebrate the country you are in, warts and all. Or don’t. Kneel and make your statements nonviolently trying to draw attention to your cause, even if the cause itself is some times jumbled. Kneel because that is what you think is the most respectful thing you can do in this climate, even if I disagree with you. Kneel because you are in some way trying to make things better. All I can control is me. I am going to stand for the people that we can all be. I am going to stand and celebrate the nation that I enjoy freedoms in. I am going to stand and honor the fallen, former, and current soldiers, even though I disagree with most of the wars they fought in. I am going to stand for something better instead of kneeling before what is, because the only knee I will take is for Christ, and by standing in the hopes of something better, I can honor Him best.