I’m not a football fan, so I didn’t pay much attention last year when 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. But after you-know-who said something thoughtless about such protests this week, Oakland Athletics reserve catcher Bruce Maxwell, the type of marginal performer who takes the biggest risk by doing so, became the first major league baseball player to kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner.
So now I have to care.
Seriously, I’ve thought from the start that kneeling during the national anthem is a perfect form of protest. You register your grievance in a public way, but:
- You are being respectful. In most cultures, kneeling is a form of deference. It’s more respectful than raising a fist, as Tommie Smith and John Carlos did during the 1968 Olympics, and way more respectful than raising a middle finger, as you-know-who would probably do.
- You are not stopping anyone else from engaging in the activity. People who disagree with you can sing the anthem all the louder, even.
- You are not disrupting the activity itself. It goes on just as it would if you were standing.
I’m also mystified by arguments that Kaepernick, Maxwell, and others shouldn’t protest because they’re athletes — and that they should shut up because they’re privileged to be making so much money. In America, everyone has a right to peacefully protest, regardless of occupation. And as for making too much money to be political, how about those NFL owners who contributed a million dollars or more to you-know-who’s inauguration?
And speaking of hypocrisy, need I mention all those memes popping up in social media comparing you-know-who’s reaction to white supremacists (many are “very fine people”) to his reaction to athletes protesting disproportionate police violence toward African-Americans (“sons of bitches”)?
I’d like to see some San Francisco Giants take a knee. I’d be especially impressed if southerners like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain — none of whom would risk anywhere near as much — showed the same fortitude as Bruce Maxwell, the son of a career army officer.