The phenomenon is not new. Back in the ’60s, when feminists were fighting for women to be accepted in education and the workplace, the argument was that women deserved the choice to be a doctor, lawyer or president if their interest, talent and good fortune would take them there. Or as a t-shirt later explained, “A woman’s place is in the house. And the Senate.”
But over time, the momentum shifted so that a woman who chose not to get her Ph.D., to stay home and raise the children, cook the meals, care for the house, was no longer considered the norm. Then it became a badge of dishonor, a traitor to women and, well, a failure. To be a “homemaker,” as they were called, was no longer an acceptable choice, but a capitulation to the patriarchy, a sycophant of the Orange Juice Queen, Anita Bryant, and surely a Nixon voter. After all, who else wouldn’t get a degree, a career, a future?
Wesley Yang set forth the zeitgeist of the moment succinctly:
2016: I have a right to kneel
2020: You are forbidden to stand
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest of the treatment of black people in America, he put his career and life on the line by doing something that was unheard of and, to a great many people, unacceptable. One did not kneel during the National Anthem. It was disrespectful of America and of those who fought and died for America.
Those who felt that way were allowed their feelings, just as Kaerpernick was allowed his bold protest, every bit as much a constitutional right, an American right, as standing respectfully. It no doubt had an impact on his career, though it’s impossible to know just how much, since he was a backup quarterback at the time and, well, even after he was brought back into the fold, no team wanted him. But he won’t miss a meal.
Kaepernick received a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract from the sports-gear company for starting the trend of NFL players kneeling rather than standing at attention during the national anthem.
He landed more big bucks when the league settled a lawsuit with him because no team wanted him. He was a backup when he began his campaign, but due to the overwhelmingly positive coverage of his gesture — which he said was a protest against racism — he managed the kind of financial reward only a few stars get after they stop playing. Nike’s “Believe in something” marketing campaign transformed him into a cultural hero.
Hey, this is America and capitalizing on opportunity is one of the things that makes us great. But as the paradigm shift with women in the workplace, so too has kneeling at the National Anthem become not merely the new norm, but the requisite signal of virtue.
Meanwhile, Coonrod — the sole player on any team who didn’t kneel during a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement before the playing of the anthem on Opening Day — also believes in something. But as far as many sports scribes and pundits are concerned, he doesn’t believe in the right things. He was mocked for having spoken of his Christian faith, his opposition to kneeling to anything but God and questioning BLM’s radical ideology.
Sam Coonrod, who plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks (the team name is under review for being speciesist) was the only player who did not kneel. He had his reasons, but that’s not the point: we went from kneeling during the National Anthem being a right, a fair expression of one’s views and an act of protest of which we should all be tolerant, if not appreciative, to “if you stand, you’re a racist.”
The stand-or-kneel debate, sparked by Colin Kaepernick’s posture during the national anthem in 2016 and smoldering since, has reignited — bigger than before, and this time with an unexpected twist.
Today, athletes may have to explain why they chose to stand, not kneel, during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Is a ball player, regardless of size or shape of ball preferred, allowed to signal that he or she is not of the group that stands (metaphorically) in solidarity with the socially just, the moral and decent folks of the left, who won’t hesitate to broadcast a million times over that the player’s failure to signal their virtue proves their a White Supremacist, likely with a hood in their closet and a tat of a Swastika where the sun don’t shine?
“You cannot sit around now in this post-George Floyd period we’re in and say, ‘We’re going to continue to take this safe position,’” Ross said. “No. Either you have an issue with racism or you do not.”
And if you do not have an issue with racism, what does that make you? To his credit, Kaepernick took a knee when it meant something, when he took a personal risk to express an unpopular view. Today, that’s about as edgy as your teenage daughter informing you that her name henceforth will be Henry and she would like a large purple dildo for her Sweet 16 present.
Will the next gen protest be Megan Rapino removing her sports bra in solidarity with Naked Athena? Will a New England Patriot burn an American flag on the gridiron to earn his team name? Then any player who doesn’t at least fall in line be condemned for their awfulness?
The point of these displays of protest, and then obsequious virtue, was to have a choice in how and when one expressed views, and to have a choice in what views one expresses. If a woman wants to become president, cool. If a woman wants to spend her days going to Mommy and Me, cool too.
And if an athlete chooses to stand during the National Anthem, that doesn’t make him or her a racist because only a racist wouldn’t bend a knee. Nobody should be compelled to bend a knee. Mostly because without the choice of not bending a knee being acceptable, protesting becomes meaningless, just another display of virtue to ward off the scolds.