By ELY SANCHEZ, Columnist ¦
I recently spoke with someone who told me, “Man, I’m pissed.” “Why?” I reluctantly asked. “Because of this stupid NFL anthem argument. If the players would just stand and respect the flag that represents our country, there wouldn’t be an issue! Just shut up and play!”
The vein protruding from the middle of his forehead hinted to me he was a tad bit passionate about the issue. He went on to tell me how all players should be required to stand during the anthem’s entirety or face maximum punishment. “The American flag is a symbol that should not be disrespected,” he pointed out.
Now, I’m no expert historian or scholar, but I wanted to understand just how much about the American flag and the national anthem my acquaintance actually understood, or if he was just sprouting nonsense. So I asked him if he knew that, according to the Smithsonian website, Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem, was a plantation owner who said that he believed blacks were inferior to whites.
My friend stayed quiet and stared at me in confusion. I reminded him not to forget that Jefferson Morley in his book “Snow-Storm in August” documents that Key said African-Americans were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Key, a slaveholding lawyer, wrote that same anthem that my acquaintance, much like many Americans, didn’t understand the reasoning behind the protest.
Segregation has always been real in America and throughout the early 1920s many African-Americans tried entering the world of sports but were almost always denied. When these men finally started experiencing success in the sports world, any time any of them (Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James. Not Tiger Woods, look it up) spoke out against the social injustices happening across the country, they were almost always told to “shut up and play.”
Fast forward to now when there are still social injustices occurring across America and players are still being condemned for speaking out.
People continue to argue that they don’t want “politics” associated with their game; however, the sports world has always been political. The U.S. flag is almost always draped across the field before any game. Did I mention we play the national anthem before every game but we want to keep politics out of it? Rather ironic, huh?
My acquaintance ended our conversation by pointing out that he comes from a family of German immigrants, I guess that justifies his opinion? Good thing his relatives were white immigrants. God forbid they would have been black or brown … maybe then he would understand the cause.