Comply or Pay: Preserving American Image

In the United States of America, we all celebrate symbols like the National Anthem and the American flag. We work to respect them. When I looked up “respect”, the synonym most invaluable was “care”. However, how we care seems totally tinged with double standards. Because certain players kneeled during the anthem in protest of African-American injustice, their actions were analyzed as “uncaring”, when it came to American values. Hello, Colin Kapernick and friends.

It’s easy to follow after a tradition without understanding its purpose. If you’re me, you have not read or analyzed the complete significance of the “Star Spangled Banner”. But as a citizen you’re instructed to memorize the first verse of the ballad because it’s what we do. And maybe through some opaque miracle, you’ll find some unity among your fellow American citizens.

It is that “miracle that colors what we American citizens’ demand for the anthem versus what we actually understand about it.

The final stanza of the “Star Spangled Banner” is most important. Our anthem is a ballad, an epic love poem about the stars and stripes. Allow me to summarize it for you.

“When free people must decide between home and war’s grief, may we, Americans praise God that saved us. We will conquer adversity with just reason because we trust God and the flag is the symbol that illustrates our triumph… “

Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, took issue with players of his league when protests erupted over the National Anthem, notably the kneeling. The commissioner peppered his narrative with several infinitives to smooth out the bump of criticism.

He said things like: “advance justice and fairness in our society” or “reinforce a commitment to social change.”

And then came the death knell: Just don’t come out on the field”. A player isn’t on the team until after the anthem is over. Stay in the locker room and wait it out. We are paying you to stand, he clarifies. And if you don’t stand, you’ll pay the league. DUN DUN DUN!

As flag blows in the wind, what does it hide and yet say? (question found in our national anthem)

If we look at human intention, A symbol often hides and confirms a huge list of ideas. So yes, the flag represents war, religion and confusion.

Think about the stars we see in animated cartoons when one character smacks a simple-minded other over the head. Race is still a problem in this country.

And Roger is a white businessman married to a conservative white Fox News constituency. Did I mention that Fox News is notorious for creating emotional whammies consistently more than other news media outlets? Observers can say that this is just “business” but we understand well what a move like this implies for any player in the NFL who may be pro- “anyone who isn’t white.”

Now I’m not a racist guy. Quite the opposite, I’m a mixed alternative music loving nerd who reads fiction, watches musicals, and mentions sports—in passing. I researched two surveys about who the ideal NFL fan is. IPG and GlobalMedia seem mixed on declaring who the principal fan is.

Both conclude that there isn’t much numerically different about the black and white sports observer. Whites seem slightly more likely to watch football. Race is all about keeping up an image, even if that image is not factual. It seems that because the NFL is hedging bets on not alienating its white fan base, because surely blacks don’t watch football. And who is our current President in 2018?

When you analyze the language closely, it’s unfair for players to be fined for kneeling during the anthem. But we can’t slap a uniform on a shared community and make everyone happy. Football fans crossover the appearance of race, they are an ethnicity—-a shared community that might have a problem with a new rule that seems to endorse something that is “separate but equal”. Do you think that the NFL is dodging a dialogue about political tensions in the country, or am I reading too much into this? What do you think?

I just don’t believe that everything that American people do in the name of patriotism is always just. I also don’t endorse the idea that only white people get to define what being “patriotic” is. Sometimes the pursuit of happiness has nothing to do with life and liberty. Sometimes we are “patriotic” because we are afraid of questioning traditions. I’m a black man that loves my country and loves people, and admires the immigrant Americans that taught me British Literature and Spanish and yet are legal American citizens that live in my state. I just think that conversation about “Comply or Pay” is bigger than a technical written statement from one man.

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