Kneeling During the National Anthem

Kneeling During the National Anthem

Three things before we get started.

  1. I am white.
  2. I am a follower of Jesus.
  3. I am okay with professional athletes (and the average citizen) kneeling during the United States national anthem.

          I’m sure that number 3 just made some of you angry.  I understand, but please, let me explain.

          First of all the recent kneeling during the national anthem by athletes in the NFL and MLB are peaceful protests.  There is no one who has been physically hurt or harmed during the kneeling of people in a public place as a form of protest.  And this protest started to raise awareness of social injustice, specifically against minorities.  Yesterday, and today, many joined in the kneeling to protest the cringe-worthy, divisive, self-promoting words of President Trump that those who protest during the national anthem are “sons of b*****s” and should be fired. 

          Kneeling is a peaceful protest, maybe the best form of peaceful protest.  And those who are kneeling are not protesting this country and the ideas that she stands for, nor are they protesting the military.  Do you want to see protests that should make you mad?  Go watch this clip here or read this article to hear or read stories of people who were protesting the Vietnam War by spitting on soldiers as they returned home and called them “baby killers,” “murderers,” and burned the American flag.  You can watch this clip to see an Iraq War veteran being spit on from 2008, click here.  Spitting on someone else in the form of protest is very upsetting to me, and makes me angry.  Kneeling does not.

          Kneeling is a form of peaceful protest and I support people’s right to peaceful protest.  Even if they are protesting something I disagree with, I support their right to a peaceful protest.  As I said earlier these protests are not being held to protest a war or our country, but the numerous injustices that have happened and are happening right now against minorities.  I am not only okay with kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about social injustice, I support it.

          Kneeling is not about protesting our country.  If you think it is, you’ve missed the point.  That would be like me saying Gandhi used hunger strikes because he was protesting food.  Kneeling during the anthem isn’t protesting this country, it is raising awareness for an issue that plagues this country, racism and the unjust treatment of minorities.  

          Second, many say that these kneeling protests are disrespecting the flag.  I would disagree with that.  In 4 U.S. Code Section 8 – which can be read in its entirety here – we are told in letter “c” under the Respect for Flag heading that, “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”  Have you ever seen the anthem for an NFL game?  How is flag displayed?  It is flat, horizontal across the field, a clear violation of the respect for the flag guidelines.

          In letter “d” under the heading of Respect for Flag we read that, “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery…”  Uh oh.  How many of us have t-shirts with the American flag on it?  According to this regulations guidelines on the flag, that is disrespecting the flag.  Better throw out those shirts, or shorts, or socks, or ties, or hats, if you have a problem with kneeling during the national anthem.  We want to be consistent in our beliefs, right?

          Under letter “i” in the Respect for Flag section we read, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard…”  I’m in trouble with this one.  I’ve used an American flag napkin before to wipe my mouth and then threw it away.  According to this, American flag napkins shouldn’t even exist because it is disrespectful to the flag.

          The flag should not be used in advertising!  We see that all the time, yet it is listed clearly here as being disrespectful to the flag.  So if you have a problem with kneeling disrespecting the flag, do you have a problem with Coca-Cola, apparel manufacturers, Nike, Ford, Apple, and almost any other American (or often not even American) companies that use the flag in advertising and to put on merchandise?

          Are you boycotting all of those companies that use the flag in a way that is outlined as disrespectful?  If you are so offended by kneeling, why aren’t you so offended by people using the American flag as a way of trying to make money?  If I had to pick one, I would say I am more offended by companies trying to make money off of the flag than I am when people kneel during the national anthem.

          Nowhere in 4 U.S. Code section 8 do we see the word “stand” or “standing” under the heading Respect for Flag.  It just isn’t there.  To read anything about conduct during the national anthem we have to look at 36 U.S. Code section 301 in section “b” under number “1” under letter “C” we are told, “…all other (non-military) persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.”

          There you have it people should stand for the national anthem.  Not must, not have to, but “should.”  To me the language of “should stand” is much less authoritative than “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”  There is no room for debate about the advertising of the American flag.  According to the above state document it should never, never, be used in advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. Why are we so okay with allowing the flag to be used in advertising and put on t-shirts and soda cans, and car logos, yet we have a problem with kneeling.

          I don’t get it.  Can someone please explain to me why one is okay and the other is not?  Are we just picking and choosing whatever we want, like, or already agree with in how we will respect the flag.

          I don’t know why this should come as a surprise to me.  Those claiming to be Christians have been doing the same thing with the Bible for hundreds of years.  Picking and choosing what they like, or want, or already believe to follow, while ignoring the rest.

          Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

          Third, kneeling for the national anthem, for these athletes and others is not to disrespect the people, the men and women who have given their time, energy, efforts, and in many cases their very lives defending this country.  This is not an anti-war or anti-military protest.  There are plenty of those, but this is not one of them. 

          We should all join in protest against the death of Walter Scott, an African-American, who was unarmed and very slowly jogging away from a police officer when he was shot in the back.  You can read that story and watch the video here.  There is no defending the cop in this instance who killed Walter Scott.  None.  We should all be upset about this, and it is worthy of protest to let others know how upset we are about it.

          We should all join in protest against a system that sent Kalief Browder, a sixteen-year-old, who was accused of stealing a backpack (a crime he didn’t commit by the way), and was sent to Rikers Island Jail where he awaited trail for three years.  An innocent kid, in jail, for three years, almost two of those years spent in solitary confinement, as he awaited trial.  Three years awaiting trial.  Kalief and many like him are denied the right to a speedy trial in New York because of unconstitutional laws that allow for the prosecution to ask for delay after delay after delay.

          We should all be upset about this.  And if kneeling draws attention to these injustices, then I too would kneel if I were in the shoes of a professional athlete.  I was encouraged yesterday to see Travis Kelce, the two-time Pro Bowler of the Kansas City Chiefs, who is white, kneel during the national anthem.  I am encouraged at 97 year-old John Middlemas a World War II veteran, and white, who kneeled yesterday morning in support of the anthem protest.  You can read more about him and his story here. 

          Brennan Gilmore, John’s grandson had this to say about his grandfather, “Grandpa has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years. He’s an amazing man always on the side of justice.”

          John had this to say, “I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grand-kids and everybody else.   When they’d go to bed at night, we’d tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus.”

          Jesus was and is on the side of justice, we should be too.  And I think that we should all be okay with peaceful protests that raise awareness of injustice, which is the intended goal of these protests.

          I have heard that many say that they think these protests don’t accomplish much.  My social newsfeed would say otherwise.  Raising awareness is a worthy cause.

          And I hear many say, “Why don’t these athletes do something other than kneel!  All these millionaires are doing is kneeling!  That’s all.  They do nothing for their community and they donate no money to the causes they believe in.”

          That is just, factually, incorrect.

          Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling protest, has pledged to give over one million dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities.  To date Kaepernick has given $800 thousand because he donates $100 thousand a month and is only two months away from his one million stated pledge.  You can read more here.  Kaepernick has, as many of you asked, put his money where his mouth is, so to speak.  Good job Kaepernick!  Stay strong.

          Michael Bennett, an NFL player who participates in anthem protests, has pledged to give all his endorsement money from the 2017-2018 season to charities supporting inner-city programs.

          I could go on and on.  Most of players that protested the anthem yesterday and today do work in their communities and are involved in charitable work.  We just don’t hear about it.  The national media doesn’t usually cover local events that countless NFL players do with schools, raising money, and charitable work.  But there is a quick and easy to find out who is doing what.  Type an NFL player’s name into google followed by the words “charity” or “community service” or something similar to see what these players are doing if you’re so concerned about that.

          But the question I have for you is, what are you doing in your local community that is making a positive difference?  Are you giving time and money an energy to charities and community organizations?

          Before I end this post I want to thank military personal, men and women, who have served our country in the armed services and are serving our country.  Thank you.  This protest is not against you.  This protest is not intended to disrespect you and the service you have given to this country.  I am truly sorry if you feel that way, but rest assured, you are not being protested against.  Thank you for your service, I, we, all Americans are indebted to your service.

          And finally, we, as Christians, need to be careful on how we view this country and the flag that flies.  It is a privilege to be a citizen of this country, but as Christians we are citizens of a greater nation.  Not an earthly nation, but a heavenly kingdom.

          In John 18:33-36 we read this: 33 Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others spoken to you about me?”  35 Pilate responded, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your nation and its chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”  36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”

          Jesus’ kingdom, his nation, isn’t of this world.  Jesus has established a kingdom that is without end.  The United States of America is not God’s kingdom.  The red, white, and blue flag that is flying is not God’s flag.  Some Christians I know act as though it is.  We should have appreciation for this country, but realize that there are some things that need to change. 

          We should all feel gratitude for the armed service personal serving in this country.  But at the same time, we should realize that our true allegiance should be to Jesus and Jesus above all else.

          I pledge my allegiance to Jesus.

          This country is great, and one of the things that makes us great is freedom.  The freedom to peacefully express our views, opinions, and protest.  I am okay with this expression in kneeling for the anthem and I support those who kneel and I support the social change they are promoting.  Don’t let this divide our country even more, let us all come together to see change in this country so we can truly be a nation where there is liberty and justice for all.

4 Replies to “Kneeling During the National Anthem”

  1. I had written a response to this blog entry, but then I got kicked off the interwebs before it posted so it’s gone. Gone forever.

    The short version of it was… Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That’s what our government should work to establish, protect, and in that order.

    These protest don’t cost anyone their life, so the players should be free to protest and the teams should be free to act however they wish in response to those protest (within the constraints of the contracts both parties have agreed upon)

  2. Being a person that has has never served in the military, but was privileged to serve those that did, as a military wife, on base, in Guam during the Golf War. I did what I did to insure the right of peaceful protest, and freedom of speech. These men are not spitting at the flag, or any other disrespectful gesture, they are only bringing to light a problem that needs to be addressed. Just because the problem does not directly affect myself or my family does not mean it does not exist, or need to be handled. I so want them to know they are heard. Thank you Derek for being a voice.

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