It all started with Colin Kaepernick in 2016. In 2017, taking a knee during the anthem has become a symbol of unity for much of the NFL roster, coaches, and owners. The issue blew up with President Trump weighing in, saying that owners should terminate players who refuse to stand.
What resulted is the politicization of sports. Supporters of the players chimed in by sharing images of themselves taking a knee. Those who feel the action is disgraceful voiced their sentiment by burning jerseys of their now ex-favorite player.
Here’s the next logical question in this debacle. Should national anthems be played at all in a sporting event?
On the one hand, playing the anthem is a reminder of the sacrifices of the brave U.S. servicemen and women who fought in defense of America’s freedom. In the span of over two centuries, Americans have taken up arms to fight against tyranny whether that threat is domestic or overseas. The anthem, in this, sense, is a homage and a reminder that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Those that fought overseas and never returned home made the ultimate sacrifice. For everyone else, is it that much of a request to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner?
Then again, the argument can be made that no one should be made to stand for the flag. After all, is it really patriotic if standing during the anthem is mandated? The Pledge of Allegiance is also recited in K-12 schools every morning. Does it really instill patriotism in young minds? Probably not; more likely, the children are just going through the motions and mouthing the words. Perhaps patriotism is best displayed on an individual basis, such as displaying old glory on your personal property or actually enlisting in the military to fight for your beloved country.
For Canadians witnessing America’s NFL brouhaha, it may raise questions of their own. Most notably: Should O’Canada be played at the start of every sporting function during their own national games? Much of Canada’s current events mirror America’s. The country, after all, has similar fringe groups, such as BLM, Antifa, and alt-right movements that stir the political pot. Do Canadians have more or less reason to be patriotic than their American brethren?
Canadians are just as proud of their servicemembers and what the flag stands for. Does that mean, though, that citizens of the Maple Leaf are obliged to stand for the pre-game anthem?