Time to move past anthem sour notes
I frankly don’t care if a player kneels or puts a fist up or puts his hand on his heart or does cartwheels during the National Anthem. This is one area in which I’m pro choice. If you don’t believe in respecting the symbols and ceremony of our nation, that’s on you. I happen to think you’re a classless putz, but I won’t force you to show fabricated affection.
You don’t feel it, don’t do it. Pretty simple. That’s why I think the NFL rule requiring players to either stand during the anthem, or remain in the locker room is unnecessary and counterproductive.
What good does it do to essentially force a man to express loyalty he doesn’t really feel, especially when these are nothing more than athletes playing a game? These are not soldiers. These are not doctors performing triage. They’re people with great metabolisms and in-demand skills who have a much higher opinion of themselves than they should. Who cares if they don’t have class?
I didn’t always feel this way. I was among those people demanding that the Colin Kaepernicks of the world. I wrote a number of columns criticizing this conflation of football and patriotism with Black Lives Matter, and telling the players that they had a First Amendment right to protest but they didn’t have a First Amendment right to force us to watch them doing it.
But after many months, and particularly after the showdown between the White House and the Eagles this week, I am so over the whole anthem thing. Over, in fact, to the point of popping Dramamine every time I hear the name Malcolm Jenkins, “Respect the Flag,” and “Civil Disobedience.”
Malcolm is the kind of fellow who thinks he’s the Joan of Arc of the gridiron, leading his noble crew of socially conscious teammates to victory against the bigots of the world (some of whom, presumably, hold season tickets and have done so for more than a half century.
You know, the tickets that help pay his salary.) I recently wrote a column about how ridiculous it was for the Sixers to support Meek Mill, and Malcolm decided to tweet out to his hundreds of thousands of followers that my column was “dumb s---.” That’s OK, he’s a citizen and has every right to say what he wants (and he’s a citizen who doesn’t want to express honor and respect to the symbols of the country that gives him those rights, but never mind.)
What’s not OK is refusing to come on my radio show and discuss race relations with me. I asked, and am still waiting for a tweet, an email, a call.
What’s also not OK is Malcolm and his fellow travelers’ refusal to engage with people who disagree with them, like going to the White House and talking to President Trump about criminal justice issues. No, Malcolm just engages in his own little boycott and tries to frame it as conscientious objection to the administration.
Trump doesn’t come off smelling like a lilly in all of this. He is using the whole anthem-kneeling-patriotism debate to advance a political agenda and fire up his base, and it’s working.
The high-profile gadflys of sports and entertainment somehow feel they have important things to tell us and big thoughts to communicate and important values to inculcate just because someone hired them to read a script or follow a playbook.
Yes, a few actually do their community service. I’m scolded by social justice types all the time about how these high-profile people use their celebrity to bring attention to injustice, to necessary causes, yadda yadda, blah blah blah.
Yes, they set up foundations. Yup, they spend money. Oooh, they wear black dresses to awards shows and they raise their fists on the sidelines.
I’m not taken with them as much as they’re taken with themselves.
And that’s why I no longer care if Malcolm and his friends show respect during the National Anthem. I no longer care if they say snarky things about the president, forgetting that the White House is the people’s house and Trump is just a temporary tenant.
I don’t care if they express their disdain for the regular Joes and Josies who pay through the nose to watch them throw a ball around for a few Sundays in the Fall (and a lot of guys did it a lot better in black and white, many years ago at Franklin Field.)
I don’t really give a damn if they take a knee. Because they’re irrelevant, in the grand scheme of things. So let them, as Maya Anjelou once said, show us who they really are.
Most of us already know.