America’s Team – at least in the mind of the Dallas Cowboys and the mutual hype of the sports media that have shared in the profits National Football League broadcasts have snared via advertising revenue over the years – does not own trademark rights to the National Anthem or the Stars and Stripes.
Yet they have purposely wrapped themselves in the flag as an effective marketing tool over the years to build an image of being an all American institution.
Now that it is clear that we are entering Year Three of the pregame call on whether to stand or kneel during the National Anthem, those who hold the flag in reverence for the sacrifices of lives who have assured it still waves today, might think about thanking Colin Kaepernick instead of vilifying him for what he unleashed by sitting the first three games of the 2016 season before resorting to dropping to a knee during the playing of the anthem.
The fact no one even noticed Kaepernick – a high-profile quarterback – wasn’t standing for three games should tell you how much reverence most had come to place on the National Anthem beyond being something you obligatory stood up for.
That wasn’t the case for most who serve – or have served – under the flag.
But until Kaepernick – who played for Pitman High in Turlock before going on to a record setting career at the University of Nevada in Reno and taking the San Francisco 49ers to the cusp of a Super Bowl victory — took a knee most of America seemed to be on auto pilot when the National Anthem was played. That’s no longer the case.
We, as a nation, take too much for granted and often assume too much about the welfare of our fellow citizens. Nothing inherently evil about that, it’s just the way things are when self is placed above community.
That’s not to say we should snap to attention in fear or brainwashed adherence when the National Anthem plays much as you might expect in a country where thoughts and lives are dictating by a handful of privileged ruling elitists.
We should have no quarrel with Kaapernick’s form of protest. Taking a knee is certainly more respectful than simply sitting on his derriere as he did the first three games of 2016.
As to his grievance, there is plenty of room for disagreement given we all have different life experiences, influences, and views. Personally I disagree with much of the premise of his protest. He didn’t really lose me entirely until he damaged his argument when he overshot the runway with his game day socks that depicted police as pigs and his spirited defense of Castro who -– had he done a similar protest playing for the Cuban national baseball team in the dictator’s heyday, Kaepernick would have disappeared from public view for a long time.
You could easily argue that given he was on the field that he was working so therefore it wasn’t proper for him to protest. There’s one little problem with that line of thinking – his employers. The 49ers nor the NFL considered his conduct at the time to be unacceptable and it certainly isn’t clear whether that would be the case today.
If anyone is a deserving target of those incensed with the kneeling at a time when a football player is clearly on the clock, it is the team management as well as the NFL. They accepted political protests on “company time” although you’ve got to wonder if a stadium usher was caught on national TV making some type of protest gesture during the National Anthem whether he’d ever work again.
This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. It is clear the teams and NFL are worried about money and employee relations, and not the National Anthem or what the flag represents. You may disagree with every word Kaepernick said once the media – traditional and social – turned his silent protest into a 500-pound albatross around the NFL’s neck but it certainly wasn’t about the money for Kaepernick as he has proportionally paid a bigger price than the NFL.
It’s kind of ironic that the NFL, which says it respects the right of players to speak their minds and protest, recently told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to basically sit down and shut up and stop talking about the National Anthem.
But then this has never been about what the flag represents to the NFL cartel. To lift a line from a former NFL quarterback by the name of Johnny “Football” Manziel, who gave the world a lot of reasons to give him a lot less respect than a lot of folks have for Kaepernick, it’s always been about “show me the money” when the NFL wraps itself in the American flag.
Today a lot more of us, whether we agree with Kaepernick or not, spend more time thinking about what the flag represents than we did pre-knee.
We shouldn’t take for granted why the flag waves, what it means, and how it represents a country that has the mechanisms in place to accommodate growth and change. Proof of that is the fact the flag has waved for 242 years after being born not out of ethnicity and birthright as most nations’ flags, but out of a new beginning created by the premise that we don’t mix as if we are oil and water but instead we have the ability to melt as one nation sharing the same inalienable rights.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.