Monday Morning Thoughts: National Anthem Protests and Local Patriotic Observances

Michael Bennett with teammate Justin Britt/ photo courtesy of the Seattle Times

Last week, Seattle Seahawk defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat once again during the national anthem, but something interesting happened as center, Justin Britt, stood next to him and put his right hand on his teammate’s left shoulder.

Justin Britt, a white athlete from Missouri told the media, “I want to support him. I want to support what he’s standing for and his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get things are different in that area than it is in some other areas. I’m not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. I’m not putting any disrespect to them. I’m just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support. I’m going to continue to understand what’s going on in the world and why it’s happening, because none of it’s right. None of it is what should be happening. I’m going to continue talking with Mike and exploring and just helping myself understand things. I’m wanted to take a first step tonight, and that’s what I felt I did.”

Justin Britt’s action follows the action of Philadelphia’s Chris Long who stood with his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who has been raising a fist during the anthem.

Mr. Long said this week, “I’ve said before that I’ll never kneel for an anthem, because the flag means something different for everybody in this country. But I support my peers, and if you don’t see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it. So my thing is, Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete.”

This is a new trend in the NFL.  Michael Bennett is following the lead of former San Francisco QB Colin Kapernick.  In June when he was still unsigned, Michael Bennett said, “most people know why.”

He said, “I think the league is built on middle America, and most of the middle of America is predominantly a white crowd.  That’s just the truth of it. I think race is not something that the NFL wants to be a part of or get behind. But the league is predominantly African-American.”

He added, “So the issue that he’s dealing with is what we’re all dealing with. We all come from the inner city or we’ve been a part of communities where we felt like we’ve been judged because of the color of our skin or who we like or if a woman – any issue to deal with. We’ve all been dealing with it with someone in our family.”

Last year Colin Kaepernick explained, “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.”

Mr. Kaepernick specifically spoke out against police brutality.  He said, “People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher.”

He added, “There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”

On a local level, I have always been a little surprised to see both the Davis School Board and the County Board of Supervisors start their meetings with a “patriotic observance,” usually the flag salute.  The Davis City Council does not have such a ritual.

Even under different times and circumstances, it always seemed like an antiquated ritual.

I recall in my more rebellious days as a high school student in the 1980s, my high school for some reason started having a flag salute in the middle of the day.  I refused to stand and when some other students followed suit, my teacher, a former Marine and assistant football coach told us that we could not sit without a note.  Fine, I got my father to write a note.  The teacher told me that was fine, he said that he just wanted to make sure I had a reason for doing it and by getting a note from my father, I demonstrated that.

As I got older rather than sitting during the national anthem at sporting events or during the flag solute, I have taken to do a silent protest, I stand but do not say anything.

I have several problems with the ritual.  First, the national anthem is a war song and not only a war song, but it was the War of 1812, perhaps one of the most pointless war we have ever had.  Second, I have a problem with the idea of pledging allegiance to a flag – not the nation, not the constitution, but to the flag.  It is this kind of contrived patriotism that is frankly just antiquated from another era of loyalty tests.

Third, and perhaps most important is the line: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  The “under God” part was belatedly added to the flag solute and the rest gets to the core of the protests, this nation has never stood for liberty and justice for all.  It has at best been an unachievable ideal and at worst, blind hypocrisy.

So I have always had a problem with patriotic observances.  However, given the times, and the fact that we live in a progressive community, perhaps it is time to re-think those observances.

Here we live in a community and a county right now where we grapple with the same issues that are highlighted by Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett.

Should we not show our support for their efforts with an effort of our own?

I sit with Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett, and all of the other people of color who have been marginalized in this nation. I hope our elected bodies will join me.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    Since high school, I have chosen to stand silently route out of respect for the beliefs of others. I wish that everyone would stand for and support Kaepernick’s and Bennett’s right to their peaceful expression of dissent as equal to their own right to sing the anthem or recite the pledge.

    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      What do you mean Tia by your statement .  ?  Don’t you like ‘God Bless America? Is beautiful and was written by famous  God gifted  Jewish -American composer and lyricist Irwin Berlin whose family was uprooted to America  by  Russians .

  2. Howard P

    Well, Tia and David… don’t bother standing, or standing and remaining silent… that is not respectful to others, if you disagree with the other’s “outdated rituals”.  It is patronizing and dishonest.  Feel free not to ‘counter-protest’ their observances, though…

    Except, if you attend someone’s funeral or wedding, or something like that, it is appropriate to respect the customs and beliefs of others present, even if you don’t ascribe to their particular rituals/beliefs.


    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t agree that it’s necessarily patronizing to stand out of respect for others, however, at this point I don’t intend to do so anymore.

      1. Howard P

        Which is perfectly appropriate…

        I stand when the anthem is played… it does mean something to me, even if it is set to English drinking song music, even if I disagree with the specific words, particularly those that I believe are noble goals, but are not yet reality.  I also remove my head covering.  I often don’t sing, because of the quality of my voice… it would be disrespectful if I did.  My thing.

        Yet, I feel ‘dissed’, when someone stands out of ‘rote’, pretending to join with me, yet not removing their head cover… they are trying to be ‘socially acceptable’, which is direct dissonance with the concepts I hold dear.

        There is an old “chestnut” of conservatives… “my Country, right or wrong”… an obnoxious sound bite from the generally accepted quote… “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right”.  

        I ascribe to the latter.

        I also believe Sir Walter Scott also gets to the gist… if you do not love/respect the country/nation, why bother to fix/enhance it?

        Unless of course you get your jollies from sniping, whining, nay-saying.

        Don’t patronize me.


        1. Howard P

          BTW… ‘false patriotism’ is the root of much evil… as can be seen in many if not all of the KKK, neo-Nazi, white-supremacist movements… apathy is a root of much evil, as well…

        2. Jerry Waszczuk

          I stand when the anthem is played… it does mean something to me,


          It means for me  America , the best country on the Planet Earth  regardless of our differences we are sharing on the thoughtful Davis Vanguard . Your comment sounds like you are very careful not offend somebody . Just say . I love my country .

  3. Eric Gelber

    It would probably surprise most people, particularly those on the right, to learn that the original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a Christian Socialist, Francis Bellamy, as an expression of his outrage at the widening economic divide. (Kind of the Bernie Sanders of his day.) “Under God” was added in 1954, at the height of the Cold War, as a response to the perceived threat of godless communism. (I have recited the pledge but, since my teens, skip over those belatedly added words, which are offensive to my beliefs and are contrary to the principles on which the nation was founded.)

    As when Bellamy wrote the Pledge, it is an affirmation of the principle of liberty and justice for all, not a declaration that it is a reality.

    The Star Spangled Banner is an unsingable, militaristic piece of nonsense. It does not speak to the nation’s character or ideals. There are many reasons to refuse to stand for it.

    1. Howard P

      Knew all that, Eric… but you are right… the ‘fair-weather’ citizens do not…

      I also agree with your good point about the “under God” thing… was added the year I was born, based in part by the machinations of the McCarthy-ists… it (the phrase) should unequivocably disappear… it ‘honors’ Sen Joe McCarthy (and his minions), and that’s one ‘monument’ that should have been torn down many years ago.  And I say that as someone who believes in God.

      There is a huge difference between being a ‘patriot’ and being a ‘jingoist’…

      The SSB was a poem… somebody else (not Key) set it to ‘music’ and others promoted it as an anthem… can think of at least three songs that could replace it easily… unfortunately, all would surely be embroiled in controversy because of a word or concept or two… unfortunate…

      1. Jerry Waszczuk

        “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

        President Ronald Reagan

  4. Keith O

    David, good for you, don’t stand, that is your right.

    Why do you feel you need to make an announcement and ask our elected bodies to follow suit?

    If that’s your conviction just do it and don’t ask others to join you.

    I do feel that any elected officials that join you won’t be elected officials very long.


    Because of some of the player’s disrespect the NFL ratings were way down last year and on course to go even lower this year.


    1. Howard P

      First sentence… agree, already said so…

      Second sentence… David just posited an idea… no asking involved…

      Third sentence… why not?  It’s called free speech.  As long as he does not denigrate those who feel differently, no harm, no foul.

      Fourth sentence…  Let’s see… there are many CC members who were elected and served since the mid-70’s where I think the PoA was eliminated.  Your statement is factually false as to Davis CC.

      Fifth sentence… causation and effect?  Non-altered male bovine excrement… too many other variables, unless you are a Faux Fox News devotee… then, it would make sense to say that…


    2. David Greenwald

      “Why do you feel you need to make an announcement and ask our elected bodies to follow suit?”

      Why not?  You think the voters in Davis are going to vote someone out because they remove the flag salute?  In Davis?  Really?  Maybe Woodland.  Maybe.

      1. Howard P

        David… you’re being too general… Davis CC stopped the ‘patriotic observances’ years ago… if DJUSD Board does so, they need to ban it from the classrooms… otherwise, hypocrisy… not a value we want to ‘teach’…

        Not clear what you are promoting, if anything…

        1. Eric Gelber

          I agree it doesn’t belong in schools. Particularly in grade school, it smacks of coerced indoctrination. If you, as a U.S. citizen, took a job in another country, for example, would you want your kids being required to pledge allegiance to that country’s flag?

    3. Keith O

      Fifth sentence… causation and effect?  B——t… too many other variables, unless you are a —  Fox News devotee… then, it would make sense to say that…

      Howard, you need to get out and scour some other news sources because obviously you’ve got your face buried in the Vanguard screen all day every day.  It’s well know that the NFL’s ratings took a big hit last year and much of it is attributed to the player’s kneeling during the anthem.  Do a Google search, there’s many articles.  Check out some stories about the anthem protests and read the comments, you’ll be surprised how many write that they’re boycotting the NFL for that reason.  I would supply the links but it will do some good to get your face out of the Vanguard site for a few minutes.

      1. Howard P

        It’s well know (sic) that the NFL’s ratings took a big hit last year and much of it is attributed to the player’s kneeling during the anthem.

        Sources? Cites?  How many players did that kneel thing? What ratings, attendance or TV?   Who are the sources?  I call ‘un-altered male bovine excrement’ (gets me past the filter…).

        And Keith, I strongly suspect that I am more ‘patriotic’ than you are… I stand, but I want to understand why others don’t, and until I understand, I ‘cut slack’, big time… “football at all costs” is not a mantra of mine… yours? You have shares in NFL stock?

      2. Don Shor

        NFL ratings were down in 2016, especially hard hit during the later stages of the presidential campaign. But if you’re going to ascribe it to players kneeling during the anthem, I’d be curious what you think is the cause of the declining ratings for NASCAR. Is it something the drivers are doing?
        People aren’t watching sports the way they used to.

      3. David Greenwald

        I don’t think I watched any NFL games last year and it clearly had nothing to do with guys taking knees.  I think the old maxim that correlation does not prove causation.

        1. Keith O

          They actually conducted polls on how many stopped watching NFL games because of the player’s anthem protests.   The figures ranged all the way up to 56%.  There’s actually a movement #boycottnfl.  Get reading boys:

          A fresh poll from Seton Hall surveyed 841 adults across the U.S. Each respondent was asked to identify seven separate factors as a reason for the NFL ratings drop, allowing them to answer “yes” or “no” for each of them. The leading factor, according to the poll, was the national anthem protests, which scored “yes” at a rate of 56 percent.

          There’s plenty more articles and polls if this isn’t enough to convince you liberal deniers.  There was also an eclipse today, do I need to post links to prove it?




        2. David Greenwald

          You do have to consider who the audience for an NFL game: “I think the league is built on middle America, and most of the middle of America is predominantly a white crowd.”

          That said it does kind of defy logic that a few scattered players boycotting the national anthem would contribute to decline in viewership.

        3. Keith O

          That said it does kind of defy logic that a few scattered players boycotting the national anthem would contribute to decline in viewership.

          Unlike you and some of your recent assertions I supplied proof.

  5. Leanna Sweha

    It is important to have symbols representing our common values as a nation. If not this song, if not the flag, which are supposed to be such symbols of our shared values, then what do you all suggest we rally around?

    1. Keith O

      I agree Leanna, maybe the anthem or the pledge isn’t perfect but they’ve still been part of showing patriotism to our country for many years.  Why do liberals feel they always need to be tearing things down?

  6. Sharla C.

    I was at a baseball game a couple of weeks ago that was well attended by fans from the opposing team.  As with all baseball games, the National anthem was sung and at the end of the line “land of the free” one of these fans let out a sustained shriek that drowned out the rest of the song for our section.  It sounded horrific, like an animal in the throes of a most painful death.  It was disturbing and not at all patriotic to interupt the song, I feel.   Everyone in our section stopped their patriotic observance to turn and stare at this woman with concern, and then annoyance.  I asked another of these fans what was up with that and was told that at their ballpark the fans scream every time at that point in the song as a demonstration of their patriotic-ness.    I could not care less about people sitting, kneeling, forgetting to remove their hats, etc. during the National anthem.  If shrieking and hollaring is allowed and considered an OK expression during the song, the we can all handle someone taking a knee.

    1. Jim Hoch

      Keith, reducing professional sports prominence in our culture is a good thing. If this means we need to face fewer calls for public funding of stadiums and the like then we should all be grateful to Kap for sticking a knife in the heart.

      1. Keith O

        A friend of mine officiates high school football games in the East Bay.  He quit after Friday night.  He said he could no longer take the disrespect the players and fans showed for the anthem when it played.  On top of that he said a brawl erupted after the game.  He’s done.

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