The truth surrounding boycotting of the National Anthem

William T

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Standing for and honoring the flag of the United States of America during the singing of the National Anthem is a highly contentious topic. This observance or lack of observance has sparked a heated debate that many see as riddled with lies and deception to cover up what many feel is the truth. It is evident that professional athletes kneeling or boycotting during the national anthem indicates they think it is hypocritical to stand and sing the national anthem when they don’t think it honors, respects, and reveres all its citizens. They are advocating for necessary changes to eradicate the many social injustices plaguing our Black communities. Peaceful protesting during the national anthem seems to grasp the attention of this country when all else seems to fail.

The veil of deception lies in the view that the refusal to stand and acknowledge the singing of the national anthem is deliberately and intentionally disrespecting our veterans as well as our country. This peaceful display of what many may feel as ‘defiance’ is merely bringing attention to the fact that this country could do much better off acknowledging and correcting injustices, especially toward people of color.

It is the narrative of many African Americans that we are bringing attention to social injustices plaguing the lives of African Americans and people of color that can no longer be ignored. However, we are told we are to honor, respect and revere the flag, the pledge of alliance, and the national anthem without hesitation or questions. Unfortunately, it has come to the point that it isn’t that easy for so many Americans to oblige. Their pain and suffering is so overwhelming that it takes precedence. And no, that doesn’t mean they do not love their country. They want their country to love also them.

We are being told by authoritative and controlling forces (in many cases, systemic entities and bureaucracies that have been complicit in invoking these injustices upon us) that while our feelings may be valid, how and when we demonstrate social protest is inappropriate and disrespectful—especially when it involves our flag. I guess they are saying our protests must meet their approval. Don’t they understand that it not about them, but about making America do what is right?

Many African Americans feel the statement that Houston Texans owner Bob McNair made during a meeting with the other NFL team owners resonated the feeling of all the other owners. The statement was that “the inmates shouldn’t be running the prison.” Of course McNair recanted the statement stating he didn’t mean for it to be taken literally. How else was it supposed to be taken?

Many African American veterans claim that they understand and even support the boycott by those kneeling or refusing to stand and sing the national anthem. Several claimed they don’t feel they are respected or treated fairly as veterans, even though they have put their lives on the line for this country. Many shared first hand experiences of injustices, recalling the indignities of coming home after serving this country; being called names; forced to ride in the back of the bus; denied jobs; and sometimes denied mental and psychological help to combat the ugly realities of warfare (suicide among veterans is high). One vet said it could better be said that many veterans feel they have been used, abused, and set aside.

Sometimes you need to look at the reality of opposing sides, or should we say the haves and have-nots? Why does it seem that so many people find it hard to acknowledge or care about the suffering and indignities of a certain group of people? It is real and should not be trivialized or ignored. Maybe if those who adamantly find it inexcusable and disrespectful boycotting the national anthem, try to put themselves in their adversary’s shoes, maybe they would understand or see things differently.

I have come to the conclusion that many Whites don’t understand or just don’t feel anyone regardless of their experiences should not stand and honor the national anthem as they do. I can only see this as part of an ongoing problem—living in two Americas with differing realities: one of entitlements and privileges, and one of discriminatory practices and blatant injustices.

As an African American, I am only saddened by the lack of solidarity missing from all African American NFL players. African Americans in professional sports venues should be willing to sacrifice their own self-serving agendas and continuously act as one—possibly bringing change to benefit all people that look like them to help make this country what it should be.

It is so sad and disheartening that so many high profiled, privileged, and blessed African Americans fail to see that sometimes it can’t always be about them but in the betterment of their people. That’s why we should hold those high profiled African Americans, especially football players, in high esteem. They are adamantly committed to bringing recognition to social injustices toward African Americans and people of color by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. The lure of money and fame should not make one numb or impervious to the hurt and suffering of other brothers and sisters.

We must not be deceived about the boycott. It is not about disrespecting the veterans who deserve all our love, respect, and reverence. It is not about hating this country. It is about bringing about attention for much needed change to make this country live up to what it professes to be. Let’s end the hypocrisy and help make the flag a true representative symbol that reflects hope, pride, justice, equality, and respect for all Americans.

Thanks for the veterans and men and women in the armed services who have died and are presently making it possible for us to demonstrate our rights to protest. This protest is not about disrespecting them.