In 1814, during the battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key huddled in a cell at the bottom of a British prison ship scrawling out what would, when paired with music from John Stafford Smith, become the Star-Spangled Banner – the national anthem of the United States of America.

In August 2016, quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench while the anthem played before an NFL preseason game for the San Francisco 49ers.

Kaepernick’s abstaining from standing during the anthem came about as a means of protest brought on by a series of unfortunate deaths due to altercations between African-Americans and police across the U.S., tying to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

The protest went unnoticed for two games, before a photo from Jennifer Lee Chan of the Niners Nation fan blog showed the quarterback sitting on the bench during the 49ers’ third preseason game of 2016.

Soon after, Kaepernick switched to kneeling rather than sitting because he felt it was more respectful to American military veterans.

In America, the NFL has the largest fanbase in American sports, and like in many professional sports, the U.S. government pays the NFL just like any other advertiser, with the goal to encourage young people to enter into the armed forces.

This is a P.R. campaign found in many sports. At one point, the U.S. Marines even had their own car in NASCAR races.

The national anthem, like the flag and the bald eagle, is a symbol of American patriotism and an allegory for those who served in the armed forces. They act as physical representations for veterans’ feelings of patriotism, and reminders of service given and sacrifices made.

It seems pretty obvious why veterans have such a strong and emotional connection to things like the national anthem.

So, some 200 years after Key penned the words, it stands to reason that if someone does something veterans perceive as disrespectful to the anthem, they’ll be upset. Regardless of Kaepernick’s switch from sitting to kneeling, many still feel that anything other than standing during the playing of the national anthem is a sign of disrespect.

By season’s end last winter, many likely hoped there would be an end to the protests, but that didn’t happen, as the current NFL season has seen a wide expansion of players “taking a knee” during the anthem. Along the way, some players also said the point of the protests have changed from individuals making statements to teams as a whole standing, or kneeling, in a show of unity.

But President Trump began to comment on the situation via his usual platform, Twitter, saying things like “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…. our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

As with many things Trump is known to say, these statements quickly fanned the flames of controversy, rather than address head-on the real issue (police tactics/relationships).

Now, we are left with a group of players who make millions upon millions of dollars trying to use their slice of the spotlight to make a statement; a president who, rather than finding an amicable way to resolve the situation, taunts the participants instead; and veterans, who have fought, and endured horrors and often, brushes with death.

This is a situation that begs to be resolved, because – facts faced – regardless of what players “intended” to do, they are being disrespectful.

Also, regardless of how much Trump belittles their grievances, the players are expressing a real concern that deserves some real answers.

First things first: Representatives from the teams need to come together and find a better way to help this cause without disrespecting veterans. (In fact, some NFL teams have already launched community outreach efforts. Among them: the Seattle Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund.)

The government and the NFL, regardless of their positions on player protests, need to step up, too, because both are losing face the longer these protests continue. Neither organization has handled this situation properly or completely – although NFL owners and players have met to talk things out.

We encourage these players to end this anthem “boycott,” because this has quickly turned from the public viewing them as workers protesting a perceived serious injustice, to instead viewing them as the all-too-familiar “overpaid pro athlete” extorting their employers (and fans) for more money or more glory.

The focus should be on innovation, bridging programs to connect underprivileged communities with police, or even funding better police training for officers to better defuse the situations that too often lead to the use of deadly force.

Regardless of what all parties involved choose to do, they should move quickly.

This is not the only sport in the world, and there are already plenty of signs people have tired of the conflict and changed the channel.


  1. To the author of this article – A very very good and reasonable and articulate summary of the situation. I liked a lot of what you had to say. You made the attempt to see both sides and to respect both sides, I think that is important too. But, naturally, there were a few things that I don’t see the same way you do.

    First and foremost, it is my theory, because without being a personal witness to the discussion or decisions by ColinK about why he chose for his protest, the time when the anthem was played, I can’t know this with certainty. I believe that ColinK intentionally knelt as a way to show disrespect for the country. Why? Because at the time, in press conferences, he said so, in so many words. Saying he disrespected the country. Because he was connected to the BLM group who was being advised by radicals including members of the Black Panther organization. That was actually a strategy by the Black Panthers. They didn’t care if they showed disrespect as long as they got attention. So no matter how he got the attention, Colin K didn’t care who he offended. So how much more so, is the offense, when someone does it deliberately and without caring how offended you are?

    I also agree with you about Trump inserting himself into the conflict and as usual, made matters worse. A conflict that had been between the players and fans, suddenly had anyone who hates Trump jumping on the bandwagon to support the players, basically because they oppose Trump. Before he entered the situation, I was not boycotting. few players were kneeling, it seemed like it was going to peter out and the focus might have shifted to what the players could concretely do about any social justice projects they had an interest in and football had a chance to go back to normal.

    Finally, It took me a while to boycott the NFL. I am a Patriots fan and I’m completely satisfied with their level of play and have been enjoying a long spell of watching some very entertaining football. I struggled over it, but, the negative and frustrating and angry feelings I have toward the NFL in large part due to the anthem protests, what they represent and the way they have been handled, has even colored watching my favorite team. I finally had enough. I cannot support this organization. I don’t support the anthem protests, I am offended by them. I don’t accept the toxic, inaccurate message that the BLM group represents and the anthem protests is just a sequel to that. The level of disrespect and genuine anti-American behavior and words by ColinK with his ‘police are pigs’ socks, not voting while complaining about the experience of black Americans, making multiple anti-American statements, having a girlfriend call a team owner a racist, because he didn’t hire ColinK, and his wearing T-shirts admiring Castro of Cuba and Black Panther criminals. If any team I was a fan of hired ColinK, I would walk away and never look back. Not because he is black, I voted for Obama twice, but because of his behavior.

    And you are correct, I am now boycotting the NFL completely. I’m not even watching the Patriots. I am not watching any NFL related programming. No ticket purchases, no merchandise. I cancelled my Sports package with the cable company and I am aggressively boycotting all NFL sponsors. And the longer I do, the easier it becomes to find better things to do. And I hear a lot of people saying the same thing.

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