The National Anthem
A quick Google search reveals some interesting headlines.
Former starting quarterback, now back-up quarterback, for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, did not stand when the National Anthem was played this weekend at a 49ers home preseason game. His reasoning (as told to NFL.com):
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
For those unaware, the killings of young black men by police with no consequences to the police is what Kaepernick is referring to. The topic is not as simple as defining it by racial relations. Why? Because as much as people would like to believe it’s black-and-white, it’s not.
The longer I work in this sports media business, the less I interact with it online. I’ve learned a lot about the business by asking questions, but I’ve found that I’m learning more by observing. I observe what’s being shared on blog posts, news articles, podcasts, interviews, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. I observe what sports media say when they think no one is paying attention. I observe what fans say when they want everyone to hear them.
But, I also pay attention to the why. Why does someone believe what they believe? Why do they react to an incident the way that they do? A story that is shared 5 months ago can be quite telling into someone’s reasoning of today. A childhood memory can shape a belief system as an adult. A criminal act that occurred long ago can dictate instant tweets today.
That, my friends, is context.
Context matters in today’s social media world. It matters especially on Twitter – since that’s where most media reside these days – with its character limits. Instead, people (media and non-media) spout off their opinions as fact without thought as to the why behind the story.
That’s missing context.
I’ve even seen blog posts mentioning how “social media” attacked Colin Kaepernick. Their definition of “social media”? Twitter.
News flash: Twitter isn’t social media. It is but one platform of many and is a poor representative of majority of America, since, well, most Americans are not on Twitter. Side note: Twitter has 313 million active monthly users WORLDWIDE (source: Statista). That includes businesses, brands, organizations, sports teams, sports leagues — which is key to remember when we’re talking WORLDWIDE Twitter users). But, hey, go right ahead and make assertions about “social media”
There are stories of how Colin Kaepernick was wrong and if you’re defending him you’re un-American. There are stories of how Colin Kaepernick was right and if you’re accusing him of being un-American, you’re racist. As you can see in the image above, there’s one calling for a new anthem.
** TIME OUT **
BELIEFS AND EXPERIENCES
Let me ask this question: What does the National Anthem mean to you? Does it mean the same to you as it does to Colin Kaepernick? What about to an immigrant that just became an American citizen? Does it mean the same as a military widow? How about to a fifth-generation Iowan or New Yorker?
What the anthem means to you is exactly that. It’s personal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right or wrong. It means that is your perspective, based upon your life, your family, your experiences in this country. What it means to you isn’t the same as the next person.
Some place more value in the words of The Star-Spangled Banner than others. Is that wrong? No. Some see the goings-on in this country both now and in the past and cringe at what they see as hypocrisy. Is that wrong? No.
We live in a democratic country that enjoys (yes, enjoys) many freedoms. One of the many beauties of America is how different the people in this country are. We are free to honor the flag and sing the words. We are free to sit during the anthem, in silent protest.
If one has grown up in well-to-do neighborhoods all their life, how can one understand what someone who’s grown up on the streets has endured? If one has never been pulled over by a police officer for speeding, how can one understand being pulled over for doing the speed limit? If one lives and dies by home improvement shows, how can one understand those who were forced onto reservations generations ago?
There are complexities to everyone’s life that causes each of us to do/say what we do. Yet, some believe (in media, especially) that understanding others can be found in a tweet. Or, that they
To define Colin Kaepernick in this one act is to marginalize everything else he has experienced prior. To define his dissenters by a single tweet or statement is to marginalize everything they’ve experienced prior. It’s narrow-minded to think either way, but this is the time that we live in right now.
Sound bite, 140-character, 24-hour, microwave-mentality society.
Do I agree with Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the anthem? No. Does he have a right to do that? Yes. Can I understand why he did it? Yes. Do I understand why people are defending him? Yes. Do I understand why people are outraged? Yes. Are there governmental problems? Yes. Are there societal problems? Yes.
Now, are people missing something in all of this talk? ABSOLUTELY.
There are problems in this country. There will always be problems in this country. A free society allows as much because we all bring our different beliefs and experiences to the table. There are other topics that contribute to our differences, including money, power, faith, religion, race, ethnicity and so on and so on. We are all different so expecting us all to believe the same thing is nonsensical.
What does this country mean to you? What does it mean to you to live in America? What does the National Anthem mean to you? What does it mean to have people giving their lives every day so you can be free?
How you answer those questions is part of what defines you. Notice how I said “part”. If I were to define you by how you answer just one of those questions means I will ignore the other 99% of what makes you who you are.
I won’t define Colin Kaepernick by this incident. In a way, I believe he and I share a common trait. He is a thinker. He strikes me as someone who thinks about not only the what but the who, why, where, how and when too.
That’s how I think too. It doesn’t mean when I finally come to a conclusion that I’m right or I won’t change my mind. I always want to be learning. We will never foster meaningful dialogue without listening and learning from others, especially on emotionally charged topics such as this or race or religion or faith or politics or…….you get the idea.
Right or wrong, agree or disagree, Colin Kaepernick is helping me to learn. Learn about him, about the NFL, about media, about society and even about you and me. Hopefully, he is learning too.
Question is…are you willing to learn too?
Don’t tweet about it, just think about it.