NFL Kneeling: American Tradition and Customs

I write out of utter frustration with the nonsense this nation is wasting time and energy on, specifically the whole NFL kneeling brouhaha orchestrated by the most non-traditional president in American history. Focusing on this non-issue while people are dying in Puerto Rico is insulting.

I was awakened yesterday by some female on the radio waxing on about how offensive and disrespectful the kneeling is and where will it end. Will athletes do it at the Olympics?

She was particularly incensed by a photo of a man kneeling at a ceremony at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier instead of standing with his hand on his heart. But why? Kneeling is a sign of respect and (according to Wikipedia) "an expression of reverence and submission". . . as Christians, Muslims and those of many faiths well know.

Wikipedia continues: "Taking a knee" is a sign of “compassion as well as honoring the fallen or injured." Additionally, when a member of the armed services dies, members of the honor guard fold the flag that had been draped over the casket and one of them gets down on one knee to present it to the next of kin.. You can see the tradition ceremony on video here.

“Kneeling is a sign of reverence, submissiveness, deference — and sometimes mourning and vulnerability. But with a single, graceful act, Kaepernick invested it with a double meaning. He didn’t turn his back as the anthem was played, which would have been a true sign of disrespect. Nor did he rely on the now-conventionalized black-power fist.” The Psychology of Taking a Knee, Scientific American.

Colin Kaepernack originally began his protest by sitting through the national anthem but changed to taking a knee to show more respect to the Armed Forces.

Most of us are well aware that there is no legal requirement for anyone to salute the flag or pledge allegiance to it with one hand on your heart. It's a custom. A tradition. The Supreme Court has ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that students cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, nor can they be punished for not doing so. Other rules in this regard are set in the United States Flag Code but are not law.

Nor is there any legal requirement for Americans to stand and place their hand on their heart for the National Anthem. This too is just custom. Tradition. Nor is there an NFL rule in that regard.

36 U.S. Code § 301 applies to the Star-Spangled Banner and uses the word “should” throughout. Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note” etc.

Consider that the source of all of the hyperbolic emotion around this issue has been stirred up by the current White House occupant, who:

  • Non-traditionally uses foul language.
  • Ignores the traditional custom of U.S. presidents sharing their tax returns.
  • Broke the tradition of U.S. presidents attending the White House Correspondents Dinner.
  • Broke the tradition of U.S. presidents hosting the annual Ramadan dinner.
  • Broke tradition by not hosting Cinco de Mayo at the White House.
  • Broke the 150-year-old tradition of U.S. presidents having a pet in the White House.
  • Broke precedents by pardoning Joe Arpaio
  • Broke the tradition by not visiting the Warsaw Ghetto while in Poland.
  • Broke the tradition started by President Obama to honor Gay Pride month (but, of course, he was just breaking an Obama tradition.... and also his own promise to support the LGBT community).
  • His treatment of the media and the White House Press Corp is extremely non-traditional.
  • The revolving door of White House staff is non-traditional including foul-mouthed, Anthony Scaramucci who served as communications director for about a week.

Not to mention having his THIRD wife as "First Lady" or his Tweeting and his avoidance of security briefings, which totally breaks with traditional protocol – and common sense.

Most notably he broke with tradition and decency when he did not denounce the support of David Duke and equated Nazi flags and other white supremacist symbolism and chants with those protesting the hateful demonstration.

How about when he insulted a wounded war hero who has dedicated his life to public service? Or his insults to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier who gave his life for this country? And mocked a man with an obvious disability. Is that in keeping with the traditions and customs of the office he holds?

These are just the tip of the iceberg of this totally non-traditional president-- and HE has the chutzpah to go nuclear on football players for breaking with tradition to express their strong beliefs about racism and police brutality?

The kneeling of NFL players IS respectful, albeit a break in a traditional custom. It is well within their right as patriotic American citizens. How dare he be so outraged with a change in a custom?

Their peaceful, non-violent protest is, in fact, part of a long, proud American tradition of peaceful, non-violent protests that started with the Boston Tea Party in 1773. To call the NFL players “sons of bitches” and suggest that they or any U.S. citizens should be fired for expressing their First Amendment right to free speech and expression is beyond non-traditional, it's blasphemy! It’s is an affront to our democracy and the freedoms our military has (allegedly) fought for.

After our president called NFL protestors "sons of bitches," a Pennsylvania fire chief called them "no good niggers," the Director of the Michigan State Police called them "degenerates," and the owner of a very popular restaurant in Wisconsin has now called for them to be killed. This is the bigotry and hate Trump has given permission to be expressed.

But, of course, none of that matters to his steadily decreasing number of supporters within his own party and among the populace.

Pundits agree that focusing on this non-issue while 3.5 million American citizens are in conditions worse than in any developing country -- and we are on the brink of war with Korea -- has cast a permanent stain on his bizarre, non-traditional legacy.

Now, 58 people have been shot to death and hundreds by wounded in the largest mass shooting in America’s history. Bill O'Reilly said of the Las Vegas tragedy was that “it’s the price of freedom.” Really? Many nations enjoy freedom without paying such price, and how are we free if we have to fear for our lives everywhere we go?

Are we as a nation really willing to accept mass murder as the price of freedom, but not kneeling?!?

Update seen on Facebook:

It was never about the anthem. It was never about the flag. It was never about the military......... It is about patrick harmon, 50. It is about philando castile, 32. It is about alton sterling, 37. It is about sandra bland, 28. It is about samuel dubose, 43. It is about brendon glenn, 29. It is about freddie grey, 25. It is about natasha mckenna, 37. It is about walter scott, 50. It is about christian taylor, 19. It is about michael brown, 18. It is about eric garner, 43. It is about akai gurley, 28. It is about laquan mcdonald, 17. It is about tamir rice, 12. It is about yvette smith, 47. It is about aiyana mo'nay stanley-jones, 7. It is about rekia boyd, 22. It is about shereese francis, 29. It is about sean bell, 23. It is about amadou diallo, 22. It is about due process under the law.

It is about freedom of expression. It is about justice.

Updated 10/12/17

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