This Was Never About the Anthem

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When Sharp Cheddar Stalin called the mothers of NFL players “bitches” in Huntsville, Ala., his hillbilly conservative base cheered him on because he vilified the men for disrespecting “our flag.” He castigated them for not showing the proper reverence for the national anthem.


Welcome to another game of “stupid or liar.”

You already know the rules. There are times when you hear a statement or premise so blatantly false that the person who uttered it must either be irrevocably stupid or an unabashed liar. Donald Trump and conservatives are knowingly lying when they say that Colin Kaepernick and others are disrespecting the anthem and the flag, or they are too stupid to understand the concept of protest.

Maybe they are too stupid to understand that casting Kaepernick as having contempt for the flag is like saying Rosa Parks told the Montgomery, Ala., city transportation worker, “Nah, I’m good,” because she hated buses. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and the Selma, Ala., citizens who fought for the right to vote must’ve hated the Edmund Pettus Bridge, according to their logic.

In fact, on Dec. 13, 1773, when those men in Boston boarded British ships and held the protest that would spark the flame that became the United States of America, I’m willing to bet no one was stupid enough to say, “Hey, guys, I hate taxation without representation as much as anyone ... but why we gotta be so disrespectful to the tea?”

This was never about the anthem.

For Kaepernick et al., the national anthem is a platform for protest just like the Montgomery bus system, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the boats in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. It is OK to disagree with their methodology or even the reason for the protests, but whining about the anthem being disrespected is stupid. Crying about the flag (I don’t even know how the flag got ensnared in this entire argument) is even stupider. If the national anthem ceased to exist, America would not disintegrate into dust. Placing the value of human life and the First Amendment right to protest below the worth of an empty symbolic gesture is ultimately the stupidest thing of all.


Or maybe they’re liars.

Maybe this was never about the anthem. It was way back in the halcyon days of football when the NFL began requiring players to stand on the field—the year 2009, according to NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy. Curiously, teams began receiving millions of dollars for “paid military tributes” in 2011, according to CBS Sports.


This was never about the anthem. People aren’t mad at Colin Kaepernick because he sat during a 200-year-old song. They are mad because he dared inject the subject of injustice into their pastime. They are upset with him for reminding the world that—for some people—there is no respite from inequality. They are mad because he was too black and unruly when he was supposed to stand in his uniform as an indistinguishable number with his hand over his heart, ready to play the game.


But mostly they are mad about the loss of money, ratings and power. They try to paint Kaepernick as a villain to the stupid masses of people with shotgun racks and “Support our troops” stickers, but he has become a placeholder for politicians who can’t say “belligerent blacks” into microphones at political rallies. He is now a symbol for what can happen if you refuse to tow the party line for a multibillion-dollar corporation.

The outrage over Kaepernick from unmelanated America was about a lot of things. It was about the dog whistle of “patriotism” and “America first.” It was about America’s continuing love for the game of “See no racism, hear no racism.” It was about riling up the flag-wavers as a force to oppose the habitual line steppers.


But it was never about the anthem.



Even if it WAS about the Anthem, I don’t want to hear about it from these people.