Scoot: Has national anthem kneeling controversy made America more aware of the national anthem itself?

August 29, 2019 - 6:35 pm

As a new NFL season is ready to begin, I think the heated debate over an NFL player taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner yielded an unintended, but positive, consequence.

America seems to have become more aware of the meaning of the National Anthem as a result of that passionate debate over whether the America flag and the National Anthem stand for the freedom one has to kneel. But that is not the point on this observation.

NFL QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee on August 26, 2016 prior to a preseason game between his team, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick explained that the reason he knelt was to bring a voice to oppressed people and the treatment of suspects of color. The debate spread and became part of conversations in America from the kitchen table to the corner bar to talk radio to commandeering the cable news shows. That gesture ignited one of the most heated debates I can recall on talk radio.

Here we are – three years after that first knee was taken, and the passion surrounding the debate has barely subsided. But this is not about whether Kaepernick was a hero or a heretic – this is about whether we the people are more aware of the meaning of the Star Spangled Banner.

As a radio talk show host, I hear daily reaction to social and political issues. On my show, I hear from both sides of every issue – and sometimes there are even more than two sides. From my perspective, that debate about respecting the National Anthem did make America more aware of the song that we often just lip-synced or sang without thinking. Of course, there have always been those who had great respect for the National Anthem and paid attention to every word they sang, but there were new conversations about our song they were started as a result of the controversy.

With many arguing that the National Anthem should be respected and there should be no protest during its presentation before a game, or any event, conversations started about what to do if you are not in your seat when the playing of the Anthem begins.

On my show – we raised the issue that if we should have true respect for the Star Spangled Banner, then maybe we should stop ordering a beer or putting condiments on a hot dog. Maybe we should stop walking and talking if we are in the corridors of the stadium when the anthem begins. Should we halt the migration to our seats when the treasured song begins? And should we even stop and hold our place if we are in the restroom when the anthem can be heard from the in-house sound system?

And if the Star Spangled Banner is to be respected – should people watching or listening to a game at home stop making drinks and getting the snacks ready. Even at home – should we take that moment when the Anthem is playing to stop everything out of respect?

These are questions that centered around the meaning of that song to Americans, and the questions would not have been raised and discussed if there had been not controversy.

Many were passionately opposed the actions of Colin Kaepernick three years ago may find it impossible to recognize something positive that resulted from, what they consider, to be a disrespectful gesture. But when you think about how the controversy made us talk and think about the real meaning – it’s impossible not to appreciate a new sensitivity that has risen from the heated debate over whether protesting during the Star Spangled Banner is acceptable.

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