The NFL recently adopted a policy requiring on-field players to stand for the national anthem. The policy was designed to end the controversy, but of course it only gave it new life.
I like to think that Francis Scott Key – who in 1814 wrote the poem that 100 years later would become the national anthem – would think the whole thing is ridiculous.
“Wait, THAT poem became the national anthem?” I think he’d say. “That was the worst thing I ever wrote! I don’t know what I was thinking – to be honest, I may have had an ale or two. And the tune that was put to it – my god, pure, amateurish dreck. Have you ever tried to sing it? No one can perform it correctly. Are people upset because it’s so awful?”
Me: No, they’re mad because they like it so much, in fact. They’re furious that a few people who play a game called football won’t stand up when it’s played.
“Never heard of this football, but I presume they kick the ball a lot in it, yes?”
Not really. They mostly run with it or throw it.
“So why is it called football then?”
“And why is my song played at these games?”
Nobody knows that either.
“So are people required to stand when it’s played?”
No, there’s no law that says people have to stand up for it. They’re free to sit, drink beer, scratch themselves or eat a hot dog during it if they want.
“Is that what most people do?”
No, a lot of people at the stadium actually stand, remove their hats, put their hands over their heart and sing along, but people watching on TV don’t, and there are a lot more of them.
It’s an electronic box that people watch the games on.
“The 21st Century sounds like an amazing time. But tell me, if there’s no law against not standing during the song, why are people so upset about the players not standing?”
They think it’s disrespectful to the nation.
“I must say, that’s an odd thing to think. These people who are upset, they’re aware of the 1st Amendment, right?”
Possibly. Possibly not. We don’t live in the smartest of times. A lot of people know a lot more about the Kardashians than about civil liberties.
“Has the 1st Amendment fallen out of favor in your time then?”
With most people, no. But some people are, shall we say, situational about it.
“What does that mean?”
It means they only believe in it when it suits them. It also doesn’t help that many of the players kneeling during the anthem are black.
“Ah, so you’re saying there’s something more behind this than simple respect for the nation.”
For some, yes. For others, it’s just politics.
“So why are the kneelers kneeling in the first place?”
To protest police brutality toward blacks.
“Is that a problem in your time?”
“Wait, so you’re telling me that people are more upset about football players peacefully protesting an injustice during a silly song than about the injustice itself?”
Much more. I’ve never once seen football fans protest police brutality or anything else. Except for maybe beer prices. Or long bathroom lines.
“I’m glad I don’t live in your time then. Forgive me, but it sounds positively cuckoo.”