Friday, September 22, Donald Trump criticized NFL players who lodge protests during the national anthem, saying that he wishes those players would be discharged. These remarks incited social media debates and added additional salt to America’s gashing wound of racial division. Trump’s comments were a subversive dig at Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback/activist who began a wave of NFL protests in August 2016 when he sat, and later began kneeling, during the national anthem. At the season’s end, Kaepernick opted out of renewing his contract and has yet to be signed by a new team. Trump has personally taken credit for Kaepernick’s unemployment status.
Debates framed as discussions of patriotism have been continuously exposed as prejudice. This argument is not about national loyalty. The national anthem and American flag are symbols of firsts and freedoms, but also of democracy gone awry. This argument is about taking pride in what works in this country, while simultaneously demanding reform for discriminatory behaviors that maintain a racial cast. This discussion is about fighting to improve the only home we know by reupholstering the systematically oppressive infrastructure that allows White frat houses to blast rap music while wearing their MAGA hats, and lets White women lust after Black men but abuse their mixed race children for their dark skin and curly hair.
Kaepernick and his colleagues are calling attention to America’s greatest shame and backing that grievance with statistics, policy solutions, and philanthropy. Donald Trump is shutting his ears and turning his back in favor of the White American status quo. America’s 45th President took time to publicly denounce NFL players who’ve knelt during the anthem, but has yet to call out White supremacists by name or acknowledge the evidence based issue of police brutality.
In a classic display of Caucasian audacity, the son of a multimillionaire and con-artist businessman is criticizing self made Black athletes about privilege. This is absurd. The only issue up for discussion is why the constitutional protections for the right to peacefully protest are invalid for a Black men in the case of desuetude law and policy.
Under U.S. Code 301, Title 36; When the flag is displayed, individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present, but not in uniform, may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over their hearts. Men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the other hand should be placed over the heart. And when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
This federal law outlines quixotic etiquette. Reality deems this standard impractical, which is why the penalty described in Title 18 of the United States Code is not enforced and has not ever been enforced in the twentieth centuries. If it were, failure to comply would imprison one forth of every football arena in America every Sunday for 32 Sundays and ample Americans nationwide. The problem is not the law, it’s the dollars.
In 2009, the Department of Defense and the National Guard began paying the National Football League, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and Nascar to bring its players onto the field for staged military marketing and recruiting ceremonies. However, funding for the Veteran Affairs has been comparatively bleak for decades. Dot. Dot. Dot…
Like most phenomena under the sun, activist athletes are not new. Kaepernick is following in the footsteps of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Clemente, and a long list of other brave men and women who have been fighting this same fight of equality for the last 50 years. Therefore, in the words of Cardi B, to all of our activist athletes, as long as you keep kneeling for us, we’ll keep standing for you!