The history of singing the national anthem before NFL games, Taking a knee, and Why Colin
Kaepernick is the 2017 Citizen of the Year
Football season is now at the center of a heated political
debate over whether or not players should be allowed to
sit or kneel during the national anthem. Some agree with
President Trump and find the move offensive, claiming it
is disrespectful to those who serve in the U.S. military;
others argue that the protest is a form of patriotism, and
the U.S. guarantees the right of players to protest however
Why it matters: While patriotism should not be conflated
only with the military, the history of playing the national
anthem before sports games does have strong ties with
honoring the armed forces.
Here's a timeline of how the national anthem became a
sports tradition in the first place:
1814: Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner,
while watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in
1889: Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy called for
the song to be played whenever the American flag was
1916: President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive
order declaring the "Star Spangled Banner" the American
1918: The song was played spontaneously during the
seventh-inning stretch of game one of the World Series
between the Cubs and Red Sox, while the country had
been in World War I for a year and half. After this, the
song was often played on holidays or special occasions
in many baseball parks.
1931: Congress passed an act officially confirming the
"Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem, and
President Hebert Hoover signed it into law.
1941-42: Playing the national anthem before the start of regular season baseball games became the standard. And with the U.S. in
World War II now, the National Football League also included the playing of the anthem before games.
1945: NFL commissioner Elmer Layden said, "The playing of the national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kickoff.
We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for."
2009: NFL players began standing on the field for the national anthem before the start of primetime games. Before this, players would
stay in their locker rooms except during the Super Bowl and after 9/11.
2015: Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake released a report revealing that the Department of Defense had spent $6.8 million between
2012 and 2015 on what the senators called "paid patriotism" events before professional sports games, including American flag displays,
honoring of military members, reenlistment ceremonies, etc. The DoD justified the money paid to 50 professional sports teams by calling
it part of their recruiting strategy. However, many teams had these ceremonies without compensation from the military, and there was
nothing found in the contracts that mandated that players stand during the anthem.
Since 2016, some U.S. professional athletes have silently protested police brutality and racial inequality during the playing of the U.S.
national anthem. The demonstrations have generated mixed reactions. Some have called the protests unpatriotic and disrespectful of
the U.S. flag, the national anthem, the police, and the military.
The protests began in the National Football League (NFL) after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and later kneeled
during the anthem, as opposed to the tradition of standing, before his team's pre-season games of 2016. Throughout the 2016
season, members of various NFL and other sports teams have engaged in similar silent protests. On September 24, 2017, the NFL
protests became more widespread when over 200 players sat or kneeled in response to Donald Trump's calling for owners to fire the
Americans are divided on the meaning of the anthem. Some believe it is honoring fallen military soldiers and police officers. For others, it
honors the "entirety of the American experience." Kaepernick and his 49er teammate Eric Reid say they choose to kneel during the
anthem to call attention to the issues of racial inequality and police brutality. "After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from
Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, ... during the
anthem as a peaceful protest," said Reid. "We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like
a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy." Others believe that kneeling during the national anthem is an unacceptable way to draw
attention to social issues and find it highly disrespectful to members of the military and police officers who have died in service of the
Why Kaepernick Takes the Knee
Given the fiery responses to Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem — taking a knee, a gesture now being adopted by a
wave of professional athletes — you would think that it was a militant motion, full of anger and menace, akin to the Black Power salutes
raised by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. But kneeling during the national anthem is a gesture of humility, not
In youth sports, players take a knee when another player is hurt. It is an acknowledgment of the vulnerable humanity that, for the moment,
has been obscured by the intense competition of the game. Taking a knee in that context is, like a religious genuflection, a gesture of self-
surrender before the greater reality of human suffering.
Likewise, when black players take a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence against African-Americans, they are
making a gesture of pain and distress. They are putting America in a more honest context — our “Star-Spangled Banner” dimly seen
through the mists of deep injury. It is like flying an American flag upside down in a moment of emergency.
Still, black players kneeling in this way has a disorienting quality. Clearly, however humble and sincere Kaepernick’s intentions, his critics
have decided that he is disrespecting a growing list of American institutions: the flag, fallen service
by Michael Perez, Lee Siegel & Wikipedia
Copyright 2017 © AP.com, NYTimes.com
& AMBIENTE MAGAZINE.
Do not reproduce without citing this source.
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