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Hijacking the National Anthem

kaepernick-national-anthem-protest

A couple weeks ago, San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked intense debate by sitting down during the national anthem during a meaningless preseason game in protest over the treatment of African Americans.   Many, including several African American athletes, called Kaepernick’s actions unpatriotic, even claiming that he was showing disrespect for those who have fought and died for the country. Others, including President Obama, pointed out that Kaepernick has every right under our Constitution to protest.

There’s simply no question that the First Amendment protects Kaepernick’s right to protest.  Further, while I happen to think the national anthem is an odd target for protesting incidents taking place at the local level, the notion that his protest should be offensive to veterans, much less that it was somehow aimed at them, is specious.

As the debate has unfolded, a handful of other athletes have followed suit.  Perhaps most notably, Megan Rapinoe, who plays for the Seattle Reign and the US Women’s National Soccer Team, has said she will no longer stand for the anthem to protest America’s treatment of LGBT individuals like herself. While I think her cause has less merit than Kaepernick’s (few countries have more legal protections for LGBT citizens than the United States), her right is nonetheless indisputable.

Two counter-protests have been particularly notable.  John Tortorella, the coach of Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, has stated that any player who sits during the national anthem would continue to sit throughout the game.

“I’ll tell you right now. Try to understand me. I’m not criticizing anybody for stepping up and putting their thoughts out there about things. I’m the furthest thing away from being anything political. No chance I’m involved in that stuff,” Tortorella said.

But the Columbus Blue Jackets coach says he remains unequivocal in his belief that the flag and the anthem should be sacrosanct. Tortorella has a son who is deployed in Afghanistan for the third time as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces.

“Listen,” he told reporters. “We’re in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves. That’s what’s great about our country. We can do that. But when there are men and women that give their lives for their flag, for their anthem, have given their lives, continue to put themselves on the line with our services for our flag, for our anthem, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries for these people that give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there’s no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you’re trying to make a point.

“It is probably the most disrespectful thing you can do as a U.S. citizen is to bring that in. Because that’s our symbol. All for [expressing] yourself. That’s what’s so great. Everybody does. But no chance when it comes to the flag and the anthem. No chance.”

The ownership of the Washington Spirit took a particularly aggressive response:

The Washington Spirit prevented Seattle midfielder Megan Rapinoe from kneeling again during the national anthem by altering its pregame ceremonies rather than “subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent.”

The National Women’s Soccer League team moved up the anthem, playing it while the teams were off the field at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

“We decided to play the anthem in our stadium ahead of schedule rather than subject our fans and friends to the disrespect we feel such an act would represent,” the Spirit said in a statement. “We understand this may be seen as an extraordinary step, but believe it was the best option to avoid taking focus away from the game on such an important night for our franchise.”

On Sunday before the Reign’s match in Chicago, Rapinoe knelt during the anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick — the San Francisco quarterback who has refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial injustice and minority oppression. She said at the time she planned to continue to kneel.

“To willingly allow anyone to hijack this tradition that means so much to millions of Americans and so many of our own fans for any cause would effectively be just as disrespectful as doing it ourselves,” the Spirit said in the statement.

Following the match, Rapinoe said she was saddened by the Spirit’s move.

“It was incredibly distasteful, four days before one of the worst tragedies in our country, to say I tried to hijack this event,” The Washington Post quoted Rapinoe as saying.

Rapinoe and others who use a public event like the national anthem to draw attention to themselves and their pet causes are, by definition, hijacking the event. That’s why, while I disagree completely with Tortorella’s stated reasoning, I support his decision.

Members of United States Olympic, World Cup, and other competitive teams are there representing their country.  They have every right to have and express political opinions but the national anthem, medal presentations, and other ceremonial events are not theirs to use as a forum. Making these ceremonies about them is the antithesis of team behavior.

I’m more ambivalent about athletes in professional leagues. It frankly strikes me as odd to play the national anthem or sing “God Bless America” at domestic sporting events, except perhaps those involving children. They’re entertainment, not patriotic celebrations. It’s especially odd in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, where a substantial number of the players aren’t even American.

At the same time, I have no problem with ownership telling their players not to use their workplace as a forum for political protest. Kaepernick, Rapinoe, and other prominent athletes have far more ease in getting press attention for their viewpoints than do the vast majority of their countrymen. While there’s little question that hijacking the national anthem gets them even more attention, ownership is perfectly within their rights to treat their doing so as an unwanted distraction from the product on the field.

 

 

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    And leagues/owners hijacking the anthem for profit? It’s all part of setting a context and mood for the entirety of the event and its customers anyway – not bc of any patriotic duty.

    Of course we know in some cases such “patriotic” ceremonies such as fly-overs etc are really recruitment advertisements paid for by the armed forces.

    Point is, it’s all pretty disingenuous – with the exception of the message the protester sends. So even if inappropriate since they don’t “own” the venue, it’s still the only truly honorable portion of it.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    It frankly strikes me as odd to play the national anthem or sing “God Bless America” at domestic sporting events,

    Danced right up to “who cares”, but kept going. Reminds me of those Clinton Foundation!!! stories that conclude in the third paragraph that no one did anything wrong, but then, inexplicably, keep going.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Brian: Again, I think we’d be better off without the anthems and whatnot. But it’s clearly something that the fans enjoy.

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  4. Mu says:

    Our “patriotic” major sports leagues that get paid for military flyovers….

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  5. Argon says:

    Rapinoe and others who use a public event like the national anthem to draw attention to themselves and their pet causes are, by definition, hijacking the event. That’s why, while I disagree completely with Tortorella’s stated reasoning, I support his decision.

    The teams’ owners have already hijacked the national anthem as you noted, by playing it before sporting events. We cheapen the anthem and pledge of allegiance by making it mandatory and frivolous.

    The owners certainly have some rights to compel certain behaviors of their peons in order to protect ‘the brand’, but demanding forced political speech/expression is NOT one of those.

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  6. John Peabody says:

    This is all nonsense. Let people sit/stand/do jumping jacks. The nation is much stronger than the angle of knee joints while a piece of music is being played. A player’s disrespect “neither harms me nor picks my pocket” (Thomas Jefferson), nor does it affect how I feel about the US. Ignore ’em!

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  7. Rafer Janders says:

    “We’re in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves.”

    But if you do express yourself, I’m going to punish you. Because America.

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  8. Rafer Janders says:

    At the same time, I have no problem with ownership telling their players not to use their workplace as a forum for political protest.

    If sitting down during the anthem is seen as a political act, as a protest, then by definition standing up for the anthem is also a political act, an act of support. Do you similarly have a problem with ownership telling their players they have to use the workplace as a forum to express support of the country’s policies? If ownership doesn’t want to use the workplace as a forum for politics, then why are they playing the national anthem and displaying the flag in the first place?

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  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I think we’d be better off without the anthems and whatnot. But it’s clearly something that the fans enjoy.

    Clearly? How do you know that? Have you done a poll? Have you been to major league stadiums that didn’t play the anthem, and compared experiences?

    I’ve been to plenty of Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga football games in Britain, Germany and Spain that do not begin with any anthems or flag waving. Can’t say that I noticed the fans enjoying themselves any less.

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  10. Rafer Janders says:

    But the Columbus Blue Jackets coach says he remains unequivocal in his belief that the flag and the anthem should be sacrosanct. “We’re in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves.”

    But if you do express yourself, I’m going to punish you. Because America.

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  11. R. Dave says:

    @Argon wrote: The owners certainly have some rights to compel certain behaviors of their peons in order to protect ‘the brand’, but demanding forced political speech/expression is NOT one of those.

    That’s the crux of the matter, from my perspective. A private employer can certainly prohibit political expression at the workplace without running afoul of the Constitution, and I don’t have a problem with that. However, can they require political expression as a condition of employment and punish employees who refuse? I think they might technically be allowed to do that, barring any federal or state statutes to the contrary, but I definitely think it’s wrong for them to do so, at least if the political expression is unrelated to their actual business purpose.

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  12. R. Dave says:

    @Argon wrote: The owners certainly have some rights to compel certain behaviors of their peons in order to protect ‘the brand’, but demanding forced political speech/expression is NOT one of those.

    That’s the crux of the matter, from my perspective. A private employer can certainly prohibit political expression at the workplace without running afoul of the Constitution, and I don’t have a problem with that. However, can they require political expression as a condition of employment and punish employees who refuse? I think they might technically be allowed to do that, barring any federal or state statutes to the contrary, but I definitely think it’s wrong for them to do so, at least if the political expression is unrelated to their actual business purpose.

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  13. Tony W says:

    Then…..

    “Stop rioting in the streets! Find a more peaceful way to protest”

    Now……

    “Why is this guy not standing up for the national anthem? What a jerk!”

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  14. Pch101 says:

    At the same time, I have no problem with ownership telling their players not to use their workplace as a forum for political protest.

    I agree with you generally. However, these players have contracts, and those contracts will determine whether these protests can be restricted by workplace rules.

    My bet is that if the contracts don’t address this now that they will in the future. The team and league brands are wrapped up in this (faux-)patriotism and the owners certainly won’t want to pay the price for their employees’ views.

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  15. Rafer Janders says:

    If anyone is hijacking the national anthem, it’s the leagues and owners, by playing the anthem at a private workplace function that does not serve any national or political purpose. Wouldn’t any one of us here think it beyond weird if the workday started with everyone having to stand at attention for the anthem? That’s what they do in totalitarian states.

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  16. Franklin says:

    A lot of the conflict here is because people have differing views of what the flag stands for, or if we should even be venerating an object.

    For me personally, Kaepernick’s specific method of protest seems fairly irrelevant. He’s stated what he’s protesting and drawn attention to the subject. If you’re going to complain about him, it seems to be you should come up with arguments about his stated issue rather than deflecting with talk about respecting veterans or whatever.

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  17. Guarneri says:

    How are the malcontents doing today?

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  18. Scott says:

    I’m getting confused. Kaepernick was just being politically incorrect. I thought that was in vogue these days.

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  19. JKB says:

    @Tony W: “Why is this guy not standing up for the national anthem? What a jerk!”

    Seems he’s perfectly in his rights to buy a ticket, not wear his uniform and sit in the stands during the national anthem. Might even make it on TV. Hell, the team may even give him free admission. But in uniform, on the field, he’s at work and his actions reflect upon the team and the league.

    That said, the best way to end this is to ignore the misbehaving children. It’s the media and pundits who make this into something. If the fans care, they can sit out a few 49er games or the whole NFL for a few weeks and that will make a big impression. But sports fans like to whine, but they never seem willing to punish the players, teams or league for treating them badly.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    I happen to think the national anthem is an odd target for protesting incidents taking place at the local level,

    When incidents happen at the local level, across the entire country with shocking regularity, it might be possible that there is a problem at the national level.

    We do have a national problem here — a culture where the police feel that they are above the law and at war with the rest of the people, rather than serving the people. The “respect mah authoritah” culture isn’t local.

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  21. LaMont says:

    Rapinoe and others who use a public event like the national anthem to draw attention to themselves and their pet causes are, by definition, hijacking the event.

    Isn’t any protest considered “hijacking” an event, the norm, or whatever? And Isn’t the tactic of protesting in this way to bring awareness to a cause considered normal in expressing our freedom of speech rights. I get that you don’t agree with the tactic but hijacking events is, in many instances, what a protest is meant to do. The very nature of many effective protests disrupts what is considered normal to bring attention to something else. If people can get past being offended by the disruption maybe we can finally have a conversation about why they are protesting!

    At the same time, I have no problem with ownership telling their players not to use their workplace as a forum for political protest.

    And if I were an owner, I would also reprimand the coach for attempting the same. As an owner, I pay the coach to put my players in the game accordingly in order to give us a chance to win. Not bench the players because of the coach’s personally beliefs. Two wrongs doesn’t make it right. It only adds to the controversy in this case!

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  22. MBunge says:

    1. We’ve been playing the anthem before sporting events for decades. It’s ridiculous to accuse owners or management of “hijacking” something that’s been going on since before they even owned/managed the teams.

    2. I do not like people sitting during the anthem. The flag and the song represent all Americans. If you want to separate yourself from that, go and find yourself some perfect country where you can be happy.

    3. If you acknowledge the anthem but want to express yourself in an additional way, like kneeling instead of standing, I have no problem with that.

    4. Protestors aren’t the only ones who matter. Everyone else has the exact same freedom of speech and right of action.

    5. If Kaepernick or other athletes want to protest, why not wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts or headbands like those WNBA players? Because then their leagues would have the right to fine them for uniform violations. Protest without cost means little.

    Mike

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  23. Tony W says:

    @JKB: You are advocating forced compliance – not patriotism. Like most of the Right in America, it sounds like you’d be much more comfortable in North Korea or Iran.

    It is much more meaningful if people willingly stand and salute the flag while the anthem plays if they are not compelled to do so by government, employer or even tradition.

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  24. LaMont says:

    @MBunge:

    2. I do not like people sitting during the anthem. The flag and the song represent all Americans. If you want to separate yourself from that, go and find yourself some perfect country where you can be happy.

    3. If you acknowledge the anthem but want to express yourself in an additional way, like kneeling instead of standing, I have no problem with that.
    .
    .
    .
    5. If Kaepernick or other athletes want to protest, why not wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts or headbands like those WNBA players? Because then their leagues would have the right to fine them for uniform violations. Protest without cost means little.

    Who are you to determine exactly how someone should choose to express their freedom of speech? I get that it is your opinion but you have to understand that your opinion is moot when it comes to protesting as long as the protest is not against the law…

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  25. PJ says:

    Here’s an appropriate video clip.

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  26. Gustopher says:

    I have trouble figuring out whether the national anthem before football games is coerced political speech, or just part of the show.

    It would be creepy if I had to stand for the national anthem at my job (software engineer), and that would very clearly just be coerced political speech.

    On the other end of the spectrum, if an actor in the musical “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was protesting on stage during patriotic songs, then he clearly is in the wrong musical.

    The NFL is a monopoly — there are no alternatives for professional football players other than the NFL — so I instinctively side with the player over their monopoly employer. And, I don’t see how the national anthem is a key part of the show. I mostly think it is coerced political speech, and I don’t see any reason players should have to go along with that.

    Imagine if the players were expected to stand for a religious song — would we object when players of different religions refused?

    Political speech isn’t protected as strongly as religion, but we have lots of precedent for people opting out of political speech they disagree with. Paying only partial union dues for instance.

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    Saw a great cartoon, too lazy to dig it up.

    Kaepernick: This county’s not great.
    Crowd: Boooo!!

    Trump: This county’s not great.
    Crowd: Yeaah!!

    It’s purely a question of League rules and contract terms. No knowledge of either and insufficient interest to care.

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  28. DrDaveT says:

    @MBunge:

    I do not like people sitting during the anthem.

    What makes you think your likes and dislikes are relevant here?

    The flag and the song represent all Americans.

    Apparently not, at least not equally. That’s kinda the point.

    It’s ridiculous to accuse owners or management of “hijacking” something that’s been going on since before they even owned/managed the teams.

    I don’t see why. Management represents the corporation, and the corporation is responsible for the hijacking, no matter how long ago it happened originally. There’s no statute of limitations. It’s perfectly correct to accuse the Christian Church of hijacking Saturnalia, even though it happened 2 millenia ago and none of those decision-makers are still around.

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  29. Scott says:

    Here in Texas, there is continuing controversy over the Invocation before the games, never mind the national anthem or pledge. If standing for National anthem is coerced political speech, certainly, then the invocation (especially preceded by the command “bow your head” and ending with “in Jesus Name, we pray, Amen”) is coerced religion. I usually have little patience with those who sue over such things; however, people do have a right to not participate. And I think public prayer is obnoxious.

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    Rapinoe and others […] are, by definition, hijacking the event. That’s why, while I disagree completely with Tortorella’s stated reasoning, I support his decision.

    As @LaMont has already pointed out, ALL demonstrations and protests are a hijacking of something, unless done at home in a closet — at which point they aren’t really either demonstrations or protests.

    The only legal question here is whether the team has the right to force political speech from their players when they are performing their paid duties as entertainers. They probably do. The moral question, about whether they should, is thornier.

    (As an aside, I am totally weirded out by the idea that anyone thinks that soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines fight and die for either the flag or the anthem. Surely it was either the nation or the principles that those symbols are meant to represent that instilled such loyalty and sacrifice. If so, there is no more worthy protest than to point out when the symbols are no longer representing what they ought.)

    Am I the only geezer flashing back to the 1968 Olympics?

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  31. Thor thormussen says:

    Rapinoe and others who use a public event like the national anthem to draw attention to themselves and their pet causes are, by definition, hijacking the event.

    FUQ ALL OF THAT. The owners play that shit to make money. They expect social pressure to coerce her to comply. More athletes should tell them to get lost.

    Conservatives confuse disingenuous bullshit with real patriotism.

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  32. al-Alameda says:

    This happened to me many years ago, in the 1990’s, while at a baseball game.

    Following the playing of the National Anthem, a senior gentleman in the seat next to me tapped me on the elbow to get my attention, and he then told me that I should stand at attention with my hand over my heart as the Anthem was played, and not (as I did) with my hands at my sides while standing respectfully. He told me it was somewhat disrespectful. Thank god he didn’t bust me for not singing along. Well, I had to laugh – I mean, during the Anthem many people are looking around, impatiently waiting for the Anthem to conclude so that they can buy beer.

    Honestly, why do they play the Anthem before every sporting event? I understand the Olympics – you’re playing for your country, but pre-season football?

    And, yes, I’m grateful for the sacrifice others have made that allows me to pay regular season prices to watch substandard preseason football.

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  33. Mikey says:

    Any protest that has the approval of the powers that be is guaranteed to be as effective as basketball cleats.

    I wore a uniform for 20 years (Air Force, and proud of it). I know what the flag means to a lot of people. I’ve saluted it in far-flung places, seen it draped over the coffins of my brothers-in-arms. I understand why some people are upset.

    But isn’t that the point? You don’t get the kind of change our nation needs by protesting only via “approved” methods. It’s SUPPOSED to make people uncomfortable.

    And don’t tell me “the method obscures the message.” If you think that, you’re actually denying that what is being protested exists at all.

    And you won’t catch me calling for some sort of discipline or whatever for the players who sit. Forcing people to stand and render respect for a national symbol is pretty damned fascistic.

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  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @MBunge:

    Ironic, isn’t it, that the very same people who for decades have decried so-called political correctness now feel that it should be politically correct to force a worker to participate in coerced political speech he does not agree with….

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  35. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve checked carefully, taken all the appropriate measurements and noted all instrument readings and it turns out that no, I really could not care less.

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  36. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s SUPPOSED to make people uncomfortable.

    Exactly.

    Malvina Reynolds said it this way.

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  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @MBunge:

    If you want to separate yourself from that, go and find yourself some perfect country where you can be happy.

    To which I say, if you don’t like living in a country where people aren’t forced to salute a piece of cloth, maybe you should move to a country like Russia where you’ll be perfectly happy watching people be compelled into compliance.

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  38. Jc says:

    @michael reynolds: Exactly.

    Gee, when O’s fans scream “O!” during the anthem. That really shows respect to the song, country or whatever…

    Or when someone gives me a hard time because I did not remove my hat while I am standing in the sun during the anthem.

    People have so much admiration for the practice that during games that they take that time to order beers, talk, walk around and play on their phones.

    Or your hand is not over your heart, but over your stomach.

    you should bow your head or not bow your head

    If you are on camera you should mouth the words as to seem more American than most

    remember hendrix anthem at dawn, that got ripped back then

    it is played sooooo often at everything nowadays, and by everyone in every format. It’s so overdone they look for new celebs and ways of playing it, like Flea at Lakers games or Kenny G etc….it is purely for entertainment – Sit still, quiet, hand over heart, standing up – at the end scream and yell for your team to go kick some a$$ and kill someone lol – makes no sense

    and in the end of thinking of all this, who the F cares? Really?

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  39. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Rafer Janders: So much this.

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  40. Lit3Bolt says:

    James, that last paragraph is chilling. Do you support corporate rights so much that you believe they should dictate political belief and behavior?

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  41. wr says:

    @JKB: ” But in uniform, on the field, he’s at work and his actions reflect upon the team and the league.”

    So I guess if your boss told you that from now on you’d start every day at the office by singing the Internationale and pledging allegiance to Kim Jong-Un, then you’d have to go along with it?

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  42. wr says:

    @MBunge: ” I do not like people sitting during the anthem. The flag and the song represent all Americans. If you want to separate yourself from that, go and find yourself some perfect country where you can be happy.”

    Yes, because in this country “freedom of speech” means you do exactly what one anonymous internet jerk likes or you have to leave.

    Gosh, conservatives sure do love the constitution!

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  43. john430 says:

    Kaepernick is within his rights to cold-shoulder the flag and what it represents and I am well within my rights to boycott the 49ers and the TV network that shows that idiot. He who pushes should expect pushback.

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  44. Andrew says:

    The July 4th is Independence Day. It is also my mother’s birthday. My mother passed over ten years ago, but I still remember her on her birthday. It happens to be the most patriotic day in America. I happen to not grill out, not fire off fireworks, because I spend the day remembering my mother in other ways.

    I guess that makes me un-American, too. Being that I do not respect our nation’s holiday, nor follow years of tradition or protocol.

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  45. James Joyner says:

    @Argon: Again, I’m not a fan of playing the anthem at non-patriotic occasions. But it’s a longstanding tradition. Demanding that players stand up while it’s played is hardly enforcing political speech.

    @Franklin: Kaepernick’s protest is rather vague—he doesn’t seem to be calling for a specific remedy to a longstanding issue—but I generally support his cause. And I support his right to peacefully protest. I’m arguing that this is the wrong time, place, and manner of protest. Regardless, one can discuss the nature of the protest without discussing the thing being protested.

    @LaMont: To some extent, yes. As a general rule, I oppose hecklers and others, like the Code Pink types, who hijack events for their agendas. The audience spent their time and money to attend an event, not see yahoos. Get your own damn forum. Protest outside the event.

    @Lit3Bolt: I’m not arguing that Kaepernick or Rapino ought be forced to espouse any particular political view or be punished for expressing their views on content. As best I can tell from their vague public statements, I’m supportive of their causes. I just also support the right of ownership not to have their venues hijacked for the political protest of their employees.

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  46. Thor thormussen says:

    James, that last paragraph is chilling. Do you support corporate rights so much that you believe they should dictate political belief and behavior?

    while he’s often reasonable, he is still a conservative.

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  47. anjin-san says:

    @Franklin:

    you should come up with arguments about his stated issue

    Yes, but that requires being informed and thinking about the issues – that’s actual work. Much better to let someone like Sean Hannity tell you what you think, have a few beers, and obsesses on important things Kim Kardashian’s ass. These are the things that the 21st century’s “great patriots” are made of…

    “Hey man, don’t you see my Make America Great Again hat? I love this country! Where’s your’s, you commie bastard?

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  48. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m arguing that this is the wrong time, place, and manner of protest.

    I would love to hear a conservative explain to me what the right time, place, and manner of protest is for a black man in America.

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  49. anjin-san says:

    @john430:

    I am well within my rights to boycott the 49ers

    I’m curious. Considering the state of the 49ers franchise, do you feel that that is some sort of sacrafice?

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  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Demanding that players stand up while it’s played is hardly enforcing political speech.

    See that first word in the sentence you wrote? “Demanding“? Notice that it’s not “requesting” or “politely asking”? If you demand someone do something, rather than merely asking them to do something, you are in fact enforcing an action. Punishment for non-compliance is implied.

    And that action, in this case, is political speech. If quietly sitting down during the anthem is seen by the team as a form of political speech, then demanding that that political speech cease, and that the player stand in symbolic support of policies he has just indicated he disagrees with, is itself a form of political speech. You’re too smart — or, at the least, you have amassed enough credentials — not to be able to see that.

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  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    And I support his right to peacefully protest. I’m arguing that this is the wrong time, place, and manner of protest.

    Amazing, a white man argues that the time, place and manner in which a black man has chosen to protest white brutality against blacks is incorrect.

    No, of course, James isn’t saying that the black man shouldn’t protest. He should just do it in at a time and in a place and in a manner that James approves of. Is that really so much to ask??

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  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just also support the right of ownership not to have their venues hijacked for the political protest of their employees.

    Once again, and this is a question you have repeatedly ducked (and will, I assume, keep ducking), do you support the right of ownership to force their employees to publicly participate in political speech they do not agree with?

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  53. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    Protest outside the event.

    Yeah, protest somewhere separate. But equal, of course.

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  54. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Protest outside the event.

    Yes, protest outside the event. Where people won’t see it. For god’s sakes, don’t make a fuss.

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  55. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: Colin Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire with nearly unlimited access to the press. He has a far easier time airing his grievances than you or I.

    And I take the same position with Code Pink and Megan Rapinoe.

    @Rafer Janders: I don’t know what that means in practice. The Washington Spirit response—having the anthem before the players come out—strikes me as reasonable. So, too, would allowing Kaepernick to stay in the locker room or otherwise off-camera during the anthem.

    Again, I think the anthem in these settings is inappropriate because they’re not patriotic events in any meaningful sense. But, to the extent that standing for the anthem is “political speech,” it’s exceedingly benign.

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  56. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m arguing that this is the wrong time, place, and manner of protest.

    You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative….

    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

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  57. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: Of the two examples, Kaepernick and Rapino, one is multiracial and the other, so far as I know, caucasian. Race really doesn’t enter into it.

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  58. Rafer Janders says:

    Further, while I happen to think the national anthem is an odd target for protesting incidents taking place at the local level,

    Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

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  59. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Race really doesn’t enter into it.

    You have got to be effin’ kidding me.

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  60. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, to the extent that standing for the anthem is “political speech,” it’s exceedingly benign.

    So similarly, to the extent that sitting for the anthem is “political speech,” it’s exceedingly benign, and thus not worth it for the team to care about, right? Certainly not to the extent that they should demand that a player stand?

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  61. R.Dave says:

    @James Joyner wrote: Demanding that players stand up while [the national anthem is] played is hardly enforcing political speech.

    I’m not sure how you reach this conclusion. Standing for a national anthem is generally intended and widely perceived as an expression of respect and, when it’s your own country’s anthem, endorsement/patriotism. That’s why it became a tradition at sporting events in the US. At the very, very least, it’s an expression of some degree of respect for those who do value the anthem and the country. Given that inescapable political content, requiring someone to participate is by definition enforcing political speech.

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  62. Rafer Janders says:

    @R.Dave:

    I’m not sure how you reach this conclusion

    .

    Hypocrisy, mainly.

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  63. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it’s a longstanding tradition.

    So was slavery. I thought we’d all agreed that the argument from tradition is vacuous.

    Demanding that players stand up while it’s played pledge allegiance to the flag is hardly enforcing political speech.

    Care to explain to me exactly why your version isn’t enforcing political speech but my version would be? Is your scalpel fine enough to split that hair?

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I think the anthem in these settings is inappropriate because they’re not patriotic events in any meaningful sense.

    But it’s OK because it’s ‘traditional’? Make up your mind, James.

    to the extent that standing for the anthem is “political speech,” it’s exceedingly benign.

    Apparently not, given that failing to do it causes an immediate and vitriolic reaction… Nobody foams at the mouth over failure to make benign statements.

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  65. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    Colin Kaepernick is a multi-millionaire with nearly unlimited access to the press.

    I keep hearing how much money he has. Should he somehow have his freedom of action restricted because he is wealthy?

    I really want to know. What’s a form of protest from a black man that Republicans are going to be OK with? My sense is that that is a goalpost that will keep moving forever.

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  66. bill says:

    attention whores is all- anyone with a clue knows that. kaep is in a downward spiral and is now lashing out like it’s because he’s black……and gives 2 shits about others. probably has no idea that his fellow black men are responsible for killing 90% of blacks killed, and lead in nearly every crime stat across the board.
    but then he said something about hillary so now he’s “bad” to the msm knobjobs.

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  67. Lit3Bolt says:

    James, how is someone kneeling or sitting down during a song a threat to an employer? One could argue that the employer set up the situation, and thus invited the political response from the emploee. Or do you really believe someone sitting down is threat to anyone, including the employer? You have a political event, expect a political response.

    The appropriate response to this is nuanced and multilayered, to be sure. But I’d like to think we’ve gotten past absolute military hagiography and worshipful, meaningless political gestures.

    Of course, you have not mentioned the filth that has emerged from so-called “patriots” who have smeared Kapernick and Rapione with racist and misogynist slanders, making one ultimately wonder if you believe in the sacrosanct right of the First Amendment….or not. Instead we just get some “there’s no I in Team” handwaving. Psst, James….atheletes can have political opinions too. No one’s denying there will be consequences, mostly unwelcome.

    But the arguement you are making is simply authoritarian, full stop.

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  68. Gustopher says:

    It seems like the only form of protest that some people would be comfortable with is politely written letters to the editor of some dead tree newspaper.

    Anything else is too offensive, provocative, disrespectful or threatening.

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  69. Lit3Bolt says:

    @anjin-san:

    Don’t worry, Lovitar is hurrying quick smart to back you up!

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  70. Andre Kenji says:

    I would understand had this been happening in international competitions. But there is no national team or international competitions for American Football, so, there is nothing here to see. I would understand someone sitting during the Anthem during the Olympics, but we are talking about a Preseason NFL game.

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  71. anjin-san says:

    @bill:

    There are credible reports that the Seahawks will protest as a team on opening day. You might want to prepare a new whine as “Kap is a loser” won’t even work for bottom feeders such as yourself soon.

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  72. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    Race really doesn’t enter into it.

    Of course not James, of course not…

    Yikes!

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  73. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: The fact that Kaepernick is biracial doesn’t make any criticism of anything he does a racial issue. I’ve made variants of the same argument about hecklers like the Code Pinkers—almost all white–for more than a decade now. This strikes me as an even easier case, in that there’s an employer-employee relationship involved rather than just one of decorum.

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  74. Pch101 says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    James, how is someone kneeling or sitting down during a song a threat to an employer?

    It harms the brands of his employers (the team and the league.) I can understand why they would object.

    The players are free to hold political views, but they aren’t necessarily free to articulate them to the public while on the clock and at the workplace.

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  75. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pch101:

    The players are free to hold political views, but they aren’t necessarily free to articulate them to the public while on the clock and at the workplace.

    Except, of course, that standing for the anthem is itself also articulating a political view. If the team doesn’t want players to engage in political symbolism, then the team shouldn’t engage in political symbolism before games that forces the players to choose a side.

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  76. Tyrell says:

    @Argon: The fans and most of the public expect and want this. It gives the regular people an occasional opportunity to express some patriotism. It inspires people. It is also a reminder of some important historic events. It was written by Francis Key during the War of 1812, the first and last time the US was invaded.*
    It also gives children and young people a chance to get involved in helping the country by singing and participation in the anthems: many pro teams invite school choruses to lead at the games. That is a big deal for parents, kids, and a lot of folks. So let’s not try to rain on that.
    The flyovers are a reminder to me and others of the sacrifice and service of our military.
    We are in an age that is seeing our nation”s history being rewritten and removed by misguided individuals: streets and buildings renamed, monuments removed, and other misguided actions by a vocal few. We are seeing this anthem flap, problems about the pledge, and even the flag displays. Not good. What will be next ? Taking down pictures of Washington and Lincoln ? Dismantling monuments to Jefferson and Hamilton ? There are people who are going around trying to dig up dirt on our past leaders and figures. This is wrong. No one is perfect.
    * Most Americans would not be able to give one clear fact about the War of 1812 as far as the issues, events, and people.
    It was a turning point in this country. A few determined leaders and individuals saved this country from total destruction.

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  77. anjin-san says:

    @Pch101:

    It harms the brands of his employers (the team and the league.) I can understand why they would object.

    Then how come there is no league rule that says you have to stand?

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