National anthem

A quick search of my Flickr photostream shows I have dozens of photos of the national anthem being played or sung at various sporting events J and I have attended over the years. Snapping a photo during the anthem is easy, photographically speaking. Everyone is standing still, with players, coaches, referees, and fans alike lined up in orderly rows. It’s a moment of collective calm before the scrum of play erupts: a moment for both sides to share a moment of civility.

Anthem

Today my Facebook feed has been filled with people angrily facing off like players on opposing teams. To some, the act of taking a knee during the anthem is a sacrilegious act; to others, it’s a constitutionally protected form of protest. What I find intriguing is the very nature of kneeling itself. When Tim Tebow knelt in prayer on the field, he was hailed as a hero. Isn’t kneeling in protest its own kind of prayer: a plea to God or the Powers That Be for justice and sweet relief?

Anthem

Today as I saw team after team making a collective statement in response to the President’s suggestion that kneeling players should be fired–some players kneeling, others standing with locked arms, and others staying in the locker room, refusing to become political pawns–I didn’t see any disrespect toward the flag or what it represents. Kneeling isn’t an act of disrespect: it’s an act of reverence. Would anyone be offended if dozens of football players dropped to their knees to pray for our divided country? Given the state of that country, shouldn’t we all be on our knees, praying without ceasing?

Anthem

What I found most striking about today’s collective protests wasn’t the protest but the collectiveness. When the President said individual players should be fired for protesting, teammates across the league responded the way good teammates should: “If you fire any one of us, you’d better fire all of us.” This kind of team spirit is precisely what the flag represents: out of many, one. Standing during the anthem (or posting angry memes on Facebook) is easy. Working together as a team despite our differences is much more difficult.