As you may have guessed, this is about the woolly mammoth of all NFL locker rooms. The Kaepernick taking a knee during the pre-game national anthems when he played. As a brit I guess we will never truly fully understand ‘US patriotism’. But for me, I know it’s a massive deal for them. From very young Americans are drummed with the pledge of allegiance and national anthem as part of their psyche. In school, all sporting events and any event or location of importance there will be a patriotic presence in the form of a flag, anthem etc. I gather this from films, documentaries and general impressions I get about US life from the various media that is displayed.
In the UK we have the royals running around representing Britain and their celebrity encompasses a lot of our patriotic but more ‘Royalist’ energies. Like the US, a lot of British pride is directed at the armed forces and the job they do/have done to protect our way of life. This is a sentiment not shared by all especially in the modern era, as since the whole Iraq and Tony Blair scandal a lot of people have rightly lost faith in the motives of foreign policy. But that’s enough of wandering into politics let’s cut back into sporting lanes.
I associated the British/English anthem(s) with footballers trying to mutter the words at international matches, athletics events, F1 Grand Prix Podiums with Hamilton and big tournaments etc and other than that maybe the Olympic podium but in the UK I’s not really as big a deal as it is in the US. Here we say stand for the anthem and in the US the standard is hand over heart or salute depending on personal choice but standing is definitely the bottom line in the states. But the US has almost ironically taken a stand against the goings on on their shores of injustice to certain minorities so instead of Standing for a nation he felt no affinity to Kaepernick sat to acknowledge those that were and are being let down by the land that he feels has let people down.
The uproar soon followed as those that had an opinion voiced it, including the league and many people associated with him and his career leaving him with no job and black listed by many. He stuck by his stance and a lot may not know that it was military man that actually advised him to kneel instead of appearing disrespectful and just sitting on the bench. From my early days in the sport taking a knee was a something that was a mark of respect. When a player is down and injured or a coach is talking you take a knee as show of respect and uniform representation of your understanding of the importance of what is going on. Likewise Kaep spoke to an army veteran and was told to not give up his stance of protest as that is valid and a given right. But instead, take knee as this is what is done as a mark of respect when the armed forces present a commemorative flag to the families of those who lose their lives in the line of duty. The ultimate sacrifice for their nation and its people.
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So its clear that Kaep has fully considered his actions and their significance. He has endured. Maintained his position whilst attempting to find the least disrespectful way to maintain his protest. Thankfully he has become an icon for his sacrifice of a salary and ability to provide for his family. Nike have now rewarded him with an ambassadorial role that has seen him endorsed for being true to his own struggle of being a beacon shedding light on the struggle of man. As a captain in my team I would have to stand by any team mate that had a valid reason to not partake in the ceremonial acknowledgement of the national anthem at a final for instance. But the word bandwagon does spring to mind and when I heard some of my team mates took protesting stances at a final we were in in the recent past it did perplex me.
Freedom of speech is what we all take as given but there has been many an anti-establishmentarian struggle that has allowed marginalised minorities to have a voice and freedoms to express and there will always be struggles. So for me I respect the right to knee. In kneeing and being passive in a moment that has been designated for those who do want to engage in a patriotic moment, as long as the means of protest doesn’t obstruct/distract or take anything from others ability to observe it then so be it.
The NFL have asked for those that want to protest to stay in the locker room while the anthem is on or to be fined and potentially lose their jobs which I guess aligns with what I am saying to a point as they are out of the way of offending those that want to put hand on chest. But in doing that if players protest they are essentially removed from their team mates. Each team needs to sort out their policy on this especially If it becomes a divisive issue that is definitely possibility and would need to be stamped out quickly and sensibly.
The bottom line in this is RESPECT. Respecting the institution of a violent sport that has roots all over their nation and enriches lives and communities somewhat internationally now. But their nation is a beacon of civil turmoil that for Kaepernick and his peers and followers will always be in their minds. The Civil rights struggle for African Americans is only a few generations away and some would say is still going on despite them having had a black president.
The atrocities that some black people have suffered even within the last 50 years in the states means that issues runs very very deep with the emergence of the information age allowing those that want to look into it the chance to see the full struggle for what it really was and is. We had a young black man in this country shot by the police and there were riots. Young black me get shot down in the states on a daily basis, by police and otherwise but their society is so de-sensitised to it that the repercussions are somewhat muted in comparison. That’s where Kaepernick’s efforts drew a line and said no more. It should not be a sweep it under the carpet issue as its plain and simply WRONG!
We as Brits will truly understand but we as Brits will always respect the struggles and rights of the many and the rights of the few…As a Brit I have to be proud of the way even in my lifetime things have changed and the way society is becoming more diverse and inclusive. But the struggle is still real. I am but one perspective and have had one viewpoint accompanied by learning the struggles of others but when I hear God save the Queen, I think God save her and all that live ‘under’ her an keep on keeping on trying to be as tolerant and open minded as I expect my fellow Brit to be. Playing a violent sport makes you appreciate peace the same way hate makes you appreciate love. Being able to kneel helps you truly appreciate what it truly means to stand for something, in my eyes…
VIVA LA EGG-BALL!