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The anthem needs to sit down

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In recent months, athletes such as Colin Kaepernick and Gabby Douglas have begun using their visibility to protest police violence and racial discrimination by refusing to stand during the national anthem. The two athletes, widely recognized for their achievements in sports, are subjects of great controversy.

People have reacted in varying degrees of hostility to their protests. Fans of the Forty-Niners have burned Kaepernick’s jersey because they believe he should be fired for not standing during the anthem. Gabby Douglas was America’s sweetheart in the 2012 Olympics, but America quickly turned on her when her stance did not reflect their idea of how someone should behave during the anthem. Both athletes’ careers seem to pale in comparison to their perceived lack of patriotism, yet the average American has no idea why we play the anthem at our sporting events.

The national anthem is played before every professional sporting event to show our unity as a nation, but many people have never stopped to wonder why we do this. We take for granted that this song is a part of our sports. National unity has nothing to do with the latest football game, our gymnastics team is not a representative of the whole United States, and nobody looks to baseball as sign of national pride.

The national anthem has not always been played at national sporting events. In 1918, the national anthem was played at a game to comfort and connect with Cubs fans, who were understandably quiet because a domestic terrorist attack that occurred in their city of Chicago just days before the game. It was used to show people that we are still a country, and even though we were attacked we were still strong. Today, it’s a convenient excuse to go get food, or if you are watching at home you may leave the room or use it as a bathroom break, and yet for some reason we are so upset when athletes do not show their respect to the song.

The most common argument is that protesting the anthem is disrespectful to soldiers who fight for this country, but many veterans have spoken out about the anthem, saying that they do not fight for a song. One of the top trending hashtags over the past couple of weeks is #VeteransForKaepernick, in which veterans have spoken out in overwhelming numbers to protect Kaepernick’s right to free speech, much like they do when they fight for this country.

There have been actual crimes committed by football players, such as violence against women and murder, but the media is quick to paint sitting during the anthem as the worst thing  a football player has ever done.

Kaepernick and Douglas are not the first athletes who have been criticized for not behaving appropriately during the anthem. The sports world has been rattled by this protest, but as more athletes join Kaepernick on the bench, we have to wonder about what is says about our country when we care more about their method of protesting than the cause they are protesting for.

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