San Francisco 49ers’ backup quarterback Colin Kapernick stirred controversy when he sat during the playing of the national anthem before a National Football League (NFL) pre-season game. He did it in protest of the way African-Americans are treated by police. Kapernick, who has fallen out of the limelight in recent years, got the attention back in his protest. Yesterday, President Obama defended Kapernick’s right for freedom-of-speech. Regardless of how we feel about what Kapernick did, the President is absolutely right. Kapernick does have a right to express his feelings and disrespect the national anthem.
True, there are many other things to be concerned about than a benched quarterback refusing to stand for the national anthem. This gave me another thought about this whole issue.
Why do we have the National Anthem performed before sporting events anyway?
The tradition can be traced back to when the United States entered into World War I. Major League Baseball games began having patriotic festivities before the game. During the seventh-inning stretch of game one of the 1918 World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox, the band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Players faced the centerfield flag pole and stood at attention. The crowd followed and even sang along. In 1931, the song was made our national anthem by a congressional resolution and the song continued to be played but only on special occasions like opening day, national holidays and World Series games.
From that point on, major sporting events eventually became one of the places where the general public could sing the national anthem together. Unfortunately, this is the only time most of us hear the song and have a chance to pay tribute to our country.
It’s probably time to seriously consider not making the singing of the national anthem so routine. It’s clear that the song has lost its meaning to people. It’s not for a social statement or tool to bring attention to a washed-up quarterback. It’s a patriotic song which people like John Legend can’t understand. Let’s stop singing as a pre-game tradition and return it to something special.