Military Members Shouldn’t Be Held Hostage in Anthem Protest Debate
Some 49ers players protest while others participate. (Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
I served in the United States military, and I support anyone who takes a knee during the National Anthem. Not a single news commentator or angry sports fan can speak for me when it comes to this issue, because I served to uphold the Constitution, not blind patriotism.
Underneath the U.S Code concerning civilians and the National Anthem, it’s advised that people “should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart.” ‘Should’ is the key word, and by legal standards it’s not illegal. This, like many other laws in the nation, can be open to interpretation, hence the controversy.
While debates can be held on whether or not players in the NFL or any other sports league are able to protest within the event, I’ll argue that this is the wrong discussion to be had. It’s not a matter if they can or can’t, but an issue of why the players do take a knee.
It’s an expression, one that beckons to be heard for what it is. Not an attack on American values, or disrespecting the military, but an expression of pain and understanding. In youth sports, coaches will teach the young athletes to kneel beside injured players to signal that there is a problem.
Within the military, I would take a knee to listen to instructions from my superiors, to rest, recover, and to reflect on both failures and successes from my training. The popular image of a silhouetted soldier kneeling before a grave isn’t bashed as disrespectful, but the highest form of respect.
Now of course, context matters, but consider the fact that kneeling during anthem protests, started by Colin Kaepernick, was suggested by a military veteran. Army Green Beret veteran and form Seahawk long snapper Nate Boyer convinced Kaepernick to move from sitting out the anthem to taking a knee.
When Boyer first witnessed the 49’s quarterback sitting on the bench while the anthem played, he got angry at the sight, and wrote an open letter to Kaepernick expressing his opinion on the issue. It was then that Kaepernick reached out to Boyer, and they agreed to have a meeting and came to a compromise.
“For me, that’s a sign of reverence. You know, people take a knee to say a prayer,” said Boyer during an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered segment. “And then also, military personnel, it’s very common to see an image of a soldier, or a marine, or an airman, or a sailor, take a knee in front of a fallen brother-in-arm’s grave to pay respects.”
Kaepernick showed that he was engaged, that he did not want to offend service members, and it was because of the conversation that he and Boyers had that moved the protest from sitting on the bench, to kneeling on the field.
Neither I, nor Boyer can speak for the entire military community on this issue, no one can truly speak on the behalf of all those who served. Many service members have come out on the protest, for, against, and some in the middle.
The point is, the military and all of it’s members shouldn’t be held hostage because some people dislike the expressions shown on the field. Those who really want to stop the protests, should take a note from Kaepernick’s book and listen to those who are oppressed, because we are one nation that should be indivisible with liberty and justice for all.