NFL player Colin Kaepernick has been under fire recently for refusing to stand up for the national anthem in protest. However, there is at least one thing that he’s definitely gotten right.
Kaepernick has publicly explained his decision to sit down for the national anthem, saying,
“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.”
In fact, Kaepernick is also not the first athlete to protest the national anthem. For example, baseball player and civil rights activist Jackie Robinson famously said,
“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
Even more insidious, however, is the history of the national anthem that few actually know that lend credibility to Kaepernick’s claims. Although we only sing the first verse, there were actually a total of three. The third verse of the Star Spangled Banner is deeply rooted in racism:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusionA home and a Country should leave us no more?Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.No refuge could save the hireling and slaveFrom the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
At the time it was written, in 1814, slavery was alive and well. As such, the use of the word isn’t all that remarkable. The song’s writer, Francis Scott Key, “owned slaves, was an anti-abolitionist and once called his African brethren ‘a distinct and inferior race of people.'”