Across America families, friends, and strangers stand together in backyards, bars, and living rooms to cheer on the National Football League. Their loyalty to their chosen team may be as a result of a story they identified with, or rooted in their family as a generational loyalty that runs thick as blood. Baseball might be America’s past time, but football is the essence of America.
On the afternoon of September 24th, 2017 commentators were sidetracked with ongoing discussion about what was happening on the field before the game even started. For the first time in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers elected not to go out onto the field while our national anthem was sung. Throughout the day, the cameras rolled while these millionaire football players sat on the bench, knelt on the sidelines, or stayed in their locker room during the singing of the national anthem.
The singing of the national anthem during a sporting event first started as America entered into World War I. Displays of patriotism were not only embraced, but anticipated during this crucial time in American history. It was a time when all American’s knew first-hand what was at stake: Lives. During the 1918 World Series, the Cubs and the Red Sox players faced the centerfield flag pole and stood at attention. As the last note lingered, those standing in the stadiums erupted in patriotic cheers. During World War II, the display of patriotism continued at sporting events. Once again, the players stood at attention, the crowd with them, and as the final note rang, they cheered.
We may not be proud of who is running the government. In fact, it’s safe to say that 90% of the population over the last decade has been unhappy at one point or another over who is seated in the Oval office. The fact remains, Presidents come and go, but the soldiers who are buried in every cemetery both here on our soil, and those laying in unmarked graves abroad not only remain a critical part of American history, but we live and exist in the country we do, because of their sacrifice.
Do I agree with every action of this administration? No. Do I agree with every word spoken by politicians? No. And if the totality of the essence of The United States Of America was determined by the state of our government, we would be a sorry lot.
America is so much more than our elected officials. It’s in the joining of interracial hands as they step together side by side to worship at church. It’s the teenager who stops to help the elderly lady with her groceries. It’s the retired soldier who makes it a priority to daily walk among the stone memorials. And it’s the mother who is sitting next to her child at the kitchen table tonight, teaching her offspring about the history of America and where we have come from.
To all of the millionaire football players who have chosen to kneel, sit, or be absent at football games, you are entitled to your opinion. You are encouraged to voice it. You have been gifted a powerful influence over many people. With that influence, you are held to a higher level of responsibility to steward it with exemplary honor. I don’t take issue with you disagreeing with the state of the country. If we could sit down and talk face to face, I might even agree with you on some points. But if you feel that the moment when we sing our anthem, put our hand over our heart and stand before our flag is the best representation of your disagreement with a president or a climate, I’d like to encourage you to think twice.
America is so much more than our current government, climate, or actions.
The next time you think about staying seated at a game, I hope you’ll think about every single man and woman who fought and laid their life down so you can stand.