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I stand for the national anthem, and I always will. It is one of my most reflective moments, as I honor a country that gives me the freedom, prosperity, and safety to spend countless hours cheering on spectacular athletes in an almost entirely frivolous sport. I think about what our founding fathers provided us, and what our military and first responders have sacrificed to preserve our way of life. I think about my son crawling for the first time on September 10th, 2001 in Long Island, New York, and how helpless I felt when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings. I sing and I stand because it feels like doing anything less would be taking what I have for granted.

When I first heard that Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem, I was offended by the symbolism of his act while also sympathizing for why he was doing it. Our country is not providing the same safety and prosperity and freedom to every citizen. Black men and women are being killed by the people paid to protect them with seemingly no consequence. It has happened not once, but many times. Some try to confuse the issue by bringing up black-on-black violence, implying black people have no right to complain about police officers killing their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers until they stop killing one another. This perspective is both appalling and un-American.

Kaepernick is an imperfect figurehead for this movement toward justice and equal rights. He was often arrogant and immature as a player, kissing his biceps when he scored or while taking selfies in front of his sports cars. His choice of protest was imperfect as well. Evidenced by the fact that a year later, the conversation around police brutality appears to have made little progress while the debate about patriotism during the national anthem has taken center stage. As we embark on a historic day where players, coaches, and team owners will be participating in a mass protest in response to President Trump’s crass and corrosive statements, I can’t help but wonder if we have lost the point of all this.

Arguing about whether players should be allowed to kneel during the anthem has no identifiable impact on making life safer for black citizens. The Seahawks attempted to find another way to convey their dissatisfaction with the situation by linking arms during the anthem last year. It was a symbol of unity and more of a demonstration than a protest. It also received almost no media coverage because it was not controversial. Doug Baldwin quietly participated in a Washington State task force on reducing violent police incidents involving minorities. That also was only covered by local media.

A growing number of fans, further emboldened by the President, are protesting the protests by boycotting the NFL. The common refrain is they love their country more than they love their team. The common complaint is that these players are disrespecting the armed forces. That they are more outraged by the peaceful act of kneeling or sitting during the anthem, than they are by the fact that police officers are killing unarmed innocent civilians feels misguided.

Our goal as a nation is always to form a more perfect union. We should be able to recognize our flaws and work together to address them. Instead, we are in an increasingly familiar situation where Americans stubbornly oppose one another in a divisive and destructive standoff. Few appear to be looking for a productive path forward. Most are looking to win and ensure the other side loses. That leaves us with no progress, and often in a worse place than where we started.

Most unfortunate is that the leader of our country appears to relish these divisions, and is eager to keep Americans working against one another instead of for one another. That strategy is not helping him accomplish his agenda any more than it is helping his opponents accomplish theirs. Democracy is imperfect, as are the people who strive to perfect it. The fundamental notion is that we struggle together to make the world a better place for those who follow us.

I was not alive during the 60s civil rights movement. Perhaps there were the same questions then about how protest marches could lead to substantive change. My hope is that the conversation will evolve past anthem protests and brinksmanship to one about how to make our country better and safer for all who live here. More than conversation, I hope to see action or understand where I can take action to make America better. My eyes, ears, and heart are open. Are yours?

12 Responses

  1. Dug

    I’m an old combat Marine myself who lost a few friends in the way-be-gone, and there is just no way of explaining the totality of it. My own decision is to support my hometown team, but I’ll currently not be purchasing anything with Michael Bennett’s name on it. USA!

    Reply
  2. Will

    Great points as always Brian. I don’t agree with the athletes boycotting the anthem however, I do agree that it is their right to participate or not just like it’s our choice to support and watch the NFL.
    You nailed it with the divisive comment about President Trump, how can a nation of such vast and different opinions and people come together to effect change, when those who lead and have a forum for their voice continue to be divisive while to many others follow the person in front of them because they don’t truly care enough to form their own thoughts/opinions. Until that point more and more articles just like this will continue to be written. Go Hawks!

    Reply
  3. HawkMonster3030

    Great points as always Brian. I don’t agree with the athletes boycotting the anthem however, I do agree that it is their right to participate or not just like it’s our choice to support and watch the NFL.

    Unfortunately, for many African Americans (All ethnic Americans really) in this country they feel as though they have no forum for their voice to be heard. The majority of politicians are white, CEO’s, corporate figure heads primarily white, News and radio personalities mostly white. The one place where African Americans have a true forum in which
    they can be seen and heard is through athletics, where the NFL and NBA are primarily comprised of African American players. I have no problem with them using their visibility to help advance the rhetoric for change.

    You nailed it with the divisive comment about President Trump, how can a nation of such vast and different opinions and people come together to effect change, when those who lead and have a forum for their voice continue to be divisive while too many others follow the person in front of them because they don’t truly care enough to form their own thoughts/opinions. Until that point more and more articles just like this will continue to be written. Go Hawks!

    Reply
  4. Uncle Bob

    Brian, I recall sometime last year that you wrote briefly about someone calling you a racist. I was left with the impression that you were both hurt and confused how anyone could make such a false and hateful accusation against you when you’d not given any indication in the triggering statement that was racially motivated. You’re not alone in that/those feelings, and some reflection on your reaction might give a sense of why we can’t have a so called “national conversation” on these matters. Many people in our society are just as perplexed as you were when those with the biggest megaphones in this country constantly beat the drums that blame a group they may be a part of for all that ails (real or imagined) some other identifiable group. If they attempt to point out that they don’t hold whatever negative view (e.g. racist), and don’t fully agree/accept the premise of the “argument”, they get beat/shouted down (not exactly tenents of conversation). Guilt can be a powerful weapon as well as a driver. As a result they choose to just disengage rather than risk further discomfort from those whom they consider unreasonable, or unwilling to genuinely engage in civil debate.

    Later this coming week I’ll be gathering with some of my old flight mates for a 50 year reunion of our outfit that flew the skies over Vietnam. One might think that automatically makes me part of the group that’s offended by non-participation in the national anthem honoring. Far from it. I do believe it’s an empty gesture, and won’t do a thing to cure what those who choose to do that believe ails our country. But if it makes them feel like they’re doing something significant, and violence is avoided, go for it guys. It might help some of those guys individually cope, but it’s impotent (if not harmful) as far as making any significant impact on improving societal relations.

    Reply
  5. Rowdy Yates

    I was thankful for the NFL owner’s response to Trump’s latest
    diatribe. Judging from his actions and words, Trump would like to get rid of free speech in all its forms.

    You best and saddest point, Brian, for me, is that many Americans seem to be more outraged by players kneeling during the national anthem than they are outraged by police officers getting away with murder.

    Reply
  6. amor de cosmos

    My ancestors were Quakers, some of whom forswore their religion to fight in the American Revolution; others remained Loyalists to the king and were objects of hatred. Another ancestor was a Navy captain winning battles in the war of 1812.
    I spent three years in the US Army in the 1960’s, just before Vietnam became a war.
    I am a racist. I’m not happy about it, but despite my knowledge of black people from Barack Obama and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, my love of lots of black music, and having had genuine personal friendships with a few black people, my gut reacts with fear of larger black people on one hand, and a gut-based disbelief that blacks can handle great responsibilities on the other. My mind resists and rejects those attitudes, but they are so deeply embedded that the best I can do is try not to let them affect my reason or my conduct.
    I do not think my racism is unique, nor is it confined to race. It often extends also to people of other religions and other ideologies. I think it is shared by almost everyone, not only in the US but almost everywhere. It is a vestige of our prehistoric tribalism, much reinforced by the class and religious competition, nationalism, and jingoism that sadly permeate most societies. In the US it is compounded by the holier-than-thou exceptionalist myth that the US is better than everyone else and has a (white skinned) god-given mission to save everyone else from themselves.
    Until we acknowledge the fact that we are viscerally racist, we can’t and won’t do anything to stop it. Some other countries like South Africa, Germany, and Canada have confronted their racism and injustice with truth and reconciliation processes, where victims and perpetrators listen to each other and begin to understand how their attitudes and actions have affected the Other.
    I think the US desperately needs such a process, but instead the public space is dominated by people like Trump trying to entrench their power by appealing to the basest instincts and preaching the sanctity of symbols, like statues and the flag rather than the ideals – like freedom (including freedom of speech) and equality – for which they are supposed to stand. When symbols like flags and anthems become more important than the ideals for which they are supposed to stand, those ideals are gravely imperiled. That is where we are today.

    Reply
  7. Curt

    Feel sad because i’ve been a fan since 76. Always been my team & I have always been on the team’s side when it came to player contracts. Players come and go.
    This team has crossed a line and the NFL will be paying the price for letting the social justice snowflakes take over. The Seattle Seahawks/Snowflakes should be EMBARRASSED but of course they won’t be.
    They will keep listening to the media because they always tell the truth… right.

    I have canceled my Directv “Sunday Ticket” because I choose to stand for the Military and our flag. I’m done with the Seahawks until the STOP acting like Snowflakes. These snowflakes have taken over the NFL and my only voice is to stop watching and buying. We have no voice and when President Trump said “Fire the SOB’s” well it was just what I was thinking because if I tried anything like that I would be fired.

    Until the NFL stops this crap going on I will not be watching!

    Military & Flag vs. Seahawks & Snowflakes. Seahawks lose every time!!!
    Ok now you can begin the racist accusations now. I won’t be here to read them.

    Reply
    • eburghawkfan

      I have no idea if you are racist, but it sounds like you could work on being more understanding.

      Reply
      • Curt

        Understanding is only 1 way. If you don’t agree with them the first response is to call you a racist.
        This all started with Kraperneck and BLM promoting how racist cops are. When the facts came out they didn’t care because they had already convicted cops before the trials even began. After the Dallas shooting/Assassination of 5 police officers, that was it for me. Everyone has to understand the poor plight in the intercity but forgets about the cops who HAVE to patrol those streets. I watched all last year and cringed every time the Seahawks linked arms for “Kraperneck and BLM”. Now Mike B. kneels for anthem and even does the black power salute after a sack. IMO, I do think Mike B. is racist by his actions and does not love this country even though he has benefited more than any of us.
        Imagine if a white player did a Hitler salute after a sack? He would be fired the same day! I really think the NFL is letting this play out to take the attention away from other issues like domestic violence in the NFL.
        I have LOVED the Hawks since 76 with the (hit in gut) pains of the loses and the total elation of the wins. The Seahawks have become devicive
        with these issues and alienated 1/2 of their fan base by disrespecting the flag/national anthem by HIDING in the locker room . The 12 feathers on the unis are for supposed to be for all of the fans but they are representing only 1/2 half. IMO they have taken Football out of Football.
        If they (NFL players) really wanted to have a meaningful protest they should protest the politicians in these cities who have let the black community down for 50 years. They should ask themselves why they keep voting for them when they don’t see the benefits they seek.
        Paul Allen supports the players disrespecting our flag and anthem. Well I don’t. Paul Allen has made a really nice dinner then crapped on it and is telling me to eat it.
        Nope
        Never in my life would I have thought the Seahawks would pull something like this.

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