In 1982, Robin Williams put together a comedic piece where he spoke from the point of view of the Star Spangled Banner. The speech wasn’t political. It wasn’t full of hatred for one party or another. It didn’t offend anyone. As he went through, talking about his stars and where he’s been, the crowd laughed and jeered along with him. But then he turned solemn for a moment, saying how much it hurt his heart when he was at half mast. He goes on to say he doesn’t get out much, saying it isn’t “chic” to put a flag out anymore.
“Don’t look at it as saluting me,” he said, “look at it as saluting yourselves. I’m just a flag, a symbol. You’re the people. And if I may say so from here… long may you wave.”
The video chokes me up every time. Usually, I get emotional because of how sincere it is and how touching. But when I watched it early last week, I got choked up because of how much that flag was being disrespected.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that certain athletes in professional leagues are choosing to take a knee when the national anthem is played prior to every game. Some players can’t even bear to hear it, opting to stay in the locker room. They’re reasoning behind the “protest” is how oppressed they are.
Because making millions of dollars a year to play a sport you love is oppression.
Jokes aside, I know why they protest. Like I talked about last month, racism is alive and well in America. Brandon Tatum, an online commentator, said it best: “You have these people who turn around and take a knee and wanna attribute all the negativity to the flag and the anthem but don’t wanna attribute the positive…If you feel the American flag represents negativity and slavery and all this other stuff then you have to give credit and credence to a flag that has given you an opportunity to go from corn fields and picking cotton to being President of the United States of America.”
While I don’t agree with the kneeling and the disrespect, I support the first amendment. Our freedom of speech is the backbone of this country. Plenty of countries would have those athletes killed for their disrespect. Shoutout to the founding fathers for being smarter than the average bears. They didn’t just throw that amendment in there for the heck of it. They had seen the pain of not having that basic right and they were not about to let that happen in their new country. That freedom also enables owners of teams and coaches to fire players who decide to kneel or protest.
After the protests took their toll among professional sports, eyes turned to NASCAR, who had no protestors. At all. NASCAR owners warned crews and drivers that they would lose their jobs if they did so. NASCAR team owner Richard Petty stated, “Anybody that won’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period. What got ‘em where they’re at? The United States.”
Try and find the opportunity to play at the professional level elsewhere and we’ll check back in with you in five years. The American dream is called the American dream for a reason. America is unique and free. America is hurting right now because her people are so divided. But our freedoms allow us to argue and disagree without having to pay a price for it.
Let’s argue. Let’s share opinions. But let’s be civilized about it. Have conversations. Try to understand a different point of view. Heck, protest however much you want, but have a solution to the problem you’re protesting. Don’t just take a knee because you don’t like the situation, figure out a resolution and an answer before you disrespect my flag and my country.
“People haven’t always been respectful of me. Sometimes it’s been tough. There’ve been some people try to spit on me, trample me, burn me. Foreigners and occasionally Americans too, but I don’t let it get me down because…I’m not a stay-at-home kind of flag.”