Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I have been covering the Washington Wizards and the NBA overall for nine years, and during that time I've easily attended over 100 games, which means I have had to listen to our bless-ed National Anthem over 100 times. I never put my hand over the heart during the anthem, but I do find the flag on the Jumbotron screen and look at it. While the anthem played, I would think of my family who fought in the military, I would think of September 11th, I would think of unequal and unjust things in this country, and by the time my mind wandered through all of those topics, the anthem was over, and my mind went back to the business at hand--an NBA basketball game. I didn't devote one additional thought to the National Anthem and my actions during it, until the next time I had to stand up, and then I would repeat the aforementioned process.

While I was standing and thinking, there would be appromixmately 15,000 other people in the Verizon Center standing for that National Anthem too. The journalists (including me) stood up for the anthem but had their eyes glued on their computer screen as the typed last minute notes and read last minute inside information about the upcoming game. The Verizon Center support staff kept an eye on the fans to make sure no one got rowdy and out of control. The players, coaches and officials on the court either kept their heads bowed or their eyes fixated on the flags in the arena. The camera men and women, who represented various television networks, panned around the arena to get the facial expressions of the players and coaches during the anthem. And the fans? They had their own cameras out trying to zoom in on their favorite player, or they were whispering to the person sitting next to them about someone else in the arena, or they sat still just watching the flag or they just yelled "Go Wizards!" out randomly. So what's my point you may ask?

People are outraged that Colin Kaepernick is choosing to sit down during the National Anthem to protest the injustices in this country. But if these same people momentarily took their eyes off the flag during the anthem and watched what other folks were doing, there would be plenty of residual outrage to be had. In fact, people's attention spans are so short these days, I don't know how the hell anyone can be expected to stand while flag-staring for for 2-3 minutes (depending on whether a black woman is singing or not). People look at their phones, they look at the woman with the big ass, they try to make eye contact with their favorite NBA player, they cautiously look at other fans to make sure someone crazy isn't lurking. THAT is the reality. People have this false notion that when the National Anthem starts playing, everyone is in a catatonic state and overwhelmed by a surge of patriotism. It doesn't work like that and yet that very notion is 100-percent American.

Furthermore, why is the National Anthem played prior to American sporting events anyway? During the Olympics I absolutely get it. You're competing away from American soil against teams and individuals from all around the world, and if you win a Bronze, Silver or especially a Gold medal, you want that moment. At that moment it doesn't matter how jacked up some of the country is, all that matters is that YOU have won your event and your victory is representing the country at that moment. You can cry, stay stone faced, keep your hands at your side, or raise your black fist in black power, and it really doesn't matter, because that's your moment. But to play the anthem on a random Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks are playing the Wizards at 7:30 pm, where is the need for the anthem? It isn't disrespectful to the country, it is just flat out not necessary. Play the anthem at the big events (the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, World Series, etc) but not ALL the time. Who needs that much damn patriotism?

And most importantly, when and if the outrage over Kaepernick not standing subsides, a more substantive discussion about the conditions which led to him not standing needs to commence. News headlines from 2016 are strewn with injustices against the police, black people, the poor, women, etc, and at some point, real live solutions and discussions should happen. That's way more productive than folks being emotional and in their feelings about standing and sitting. Kaepernick or someone he trusts, should take the next step and talk to some cops, some military folks, some black folks, some white folks and start working on closing the gap between what he wants and what is currently happening. Perhaps that'll encourage others to do the same, and it'll put the focus back on the issues, not the anthem, which is so stupid.

I'm stepping off of my soapbox now. I do encourage you to read this article by Bomani Jones and this one by Kareem. They both tackle these issues eloquently.

And De La Soul's new album came out last week and you should go buy it, and then watch this behind-the-scenes documentary:

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