I had to laugh a bit when I saw sports commentator Colin Cowherd’s response to activist Charlie Kirk’s declaration that he was boycotting the NBA over their coordinated anthem-kneeling political theater:
I don’t care for the effort to turn sports leagues and the enjoyment of the games political – whether it’s done by the players, the coaches, the fans…or Charlie Kirk. I’m not boycotting Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Football League despite the fact that I may not agree with the political positions of all their players.
In fact, I’ve never been so excited to have them back – I’ve missed the games, the talent of the players, the high level of competition. If you think I’m depriving myself of that to make a political statement that no one will care about, you’re crazy. And I tend to believe that, like Cowherd pointed out, the ones who are boycotting are the ones who didn’t really care about them to begin with.
That said, I do have to say that I am amazed how quickly the culture changed relative to the national anthem kneeling and the social justice messaging. Obviously the death of George Floyd prompted a great deal of public attention, fueled unquestionably by the physical containment of Americans locked and isolated away in their own homes for months with nothing but social media to entertain them.
But still. Last year it was largely considered a serious risk to your standing and public character to take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. Just a few months later and if you don’t take that knee, you’re a pariah.
It started mid-summer when a woman’s soccer player stood alone:
When MLB resumed play, the league’s own Twitter account tweeted out their support and solidarity with the entire San Francisco Giants team for kneeling during the anthem. They didn’t mention Giants’ pitcher Sam Coonrod:
Hop over to the NFL where the kneeling theater started with Colin Kaepernick years ago, and the league has announced they will be playing the “black national anthem” before opening games, as well as painting social justice messages in the end zone boundaries. Everyone is expecting a full bevy of kneeling to take place. But Pittsburg Steelers player Stephon Tuitt, who calls himself a “proud American” won’t be among them:
And even in the wokest of them all, the National Basketball Association, the Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac, was the first to break the standing barrier. And he did it giving glory to God:
I’m legitimately amazed at what is happening right now. The conformity has so shifted that it has now become an act of defiance, even an act of great sacrifice and risk to stand for the country’s national anthem. Reports of players kneeling because of the social media mobs set to descend on them, their livelihoods, and their families if they don’t.
In a weird way, maybe that’s how it should have always been. Let the others conform. Don’t stand unless it means something to you. Don’t stand unless you’re willing to sacrifice for it. Don’t stand unless you have a reason to stand that you can and will articulate.
Call me crazy, but I find the whole thing oddly encouraging and inspiring.