My Own NFL Anthem Conundrum

My family and I are going to the New York Giants game against the Los Angeles Chargers (which still feels weird to write) on Oct. 8 at MetLife Stadium. We try to go as a family to at least one Giants game per season, no matter how well or poorly the team is doing.

We purchased 10 tickets Thursday.

(In a group text chat)

Me: “Had a thought about this Oct. 8 game … what are we doing for the anthem?”

Family member #1: “Not giving a shit. I’m watching football.”

Family member #2: “I’m drinking a lot. I’m off Monday.”

There were no other responses as the conversation shifted onto something else.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when we’re instructed to please rise and remove our caps for the playing of our national anthem. I used to obey “tradition”. Why? Well, because everyone around me did it. It’s what everyone on TV did. It’s what I heard everyone before them used to do, too.

Regardless of how I act, I anticipate some sort of comment or reaction not only from my family — which will mostly be out of jest — but also from anyone in our section with enough beer or hate spewing through their veins who find it necessary to voice (to me, of all people) their opinion on the subject matter. I assume profanities will be exchanged, beer will be spilled and the debate will rage on regarding how athletes and fans should act during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events.

It’s funny. I don’t consider myself to be a political junky by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe I was just ignoring politics and the issues by keeping my rose-colored glasses focused solely on sports — personally and professionally. That separation no longer exists. Here I am now entwined in the most heated debate of my lifetime. Who would have thought that in 2017 (17 years into the new millennium!) there would still be such racial inequality and hate in this country. I’ve heard stories about race and inequality from my grandparents and parents, but I thought we were progressing as a society to be more accepting of all races, religions and cultures. Guess I was wrong.

It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for this country. I’m embarrassed for the people (myself included) who live in this country.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to be American. I enjoy beers and BBQs on the Fourth of July as much as the next guy. I even do a USA-themed bar crawl with my friends and family each year to celebrate the good ol’ US of A.

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I’m a very liberal person. I value one’s right to do whatever makes him or her happy (while abiding by the law, of course). Yet whenever I go on social media, it hurts to see all of the hate, discrimination and ignorance being thrown about, especially in regards to racial inequality and the national anthem protests. I know everyone has a voice and a right to speak that voice should they so choose, but go about it in a respectful and positive way. That doesn’t mean sending death threats to athletes who choose to kneel during the anthem. That doesn’t mean using the N-word. It doesn’t mean telling someone to go back to Africa or the Middle East because the color of their skin is different than yours.

I can’t even begin to imagine what some people in this country have had to deal with in regards to racial inequality and I don’t pretend to say I can relate. I can’t. I do read the news and I do read what people write, but I’m still an outsider. That’s why it’s even more vital to see the actual picture here — Colin Kaepernick didn’t sit and kneel during the national anthem last season because he was anti-American; he did it in order to shed light on the atrocities being committed against minorities in the country he lives in and represents. That message has been skewed in the wake of the increased anthem protests — now the debate is what’s American and what isn’t — but we need to refocus our efforts.

That’s why I plan to protest during the national anthem prior to the NFL game between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 8 at MetLife Stadium.

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