The right to protest against any perceived grievance — whether it is based on facts or otherwise — is a fundamental element of a democracy. There is no shortage of perfectly appropriate ways for Americans to express their disagreement with actions by police officers or statements made by the president of the United States, including the writing of op-ed pieces in newspapers, attending peaceful rallies, or sending a message through the ballot box.
But when the protest takes the form of boycotting and showing gross disrespect for the national anthem of the United States of America, a clear line is crossed.
Over the years there have been those who suggested that the “Star Spangled Banner,” whose lyrics are primarily about an American flag that managed to survive the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1812, be replaced with a song that focuses on the freedoms that America stands for — rather than bombs bursting in the air. The very fact that a key reason it was never replaced was concern that a change would be seen as disrespecting the U.S. military, underscores how this song has evolved to also symbolize a sense of reverence for American servicemen and veterans.
Regardless of what the intentions may be, the very act of showing gross contempt for the anthem — and, by extension, its soldiers, veterans, and America itself — deserves strong condemnation from both sides of the political divide.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who can hardly be accused of having conservative or even moderate views on nearly any subject, put it well last year when she called these protests “ridiculous” and “a terrible thing to do.” Her colleagues and admirers on the far-left would do well to emulate her approach.
There is, however, a deeper element to consider as well.
America, a country that most notably lacks figures to venerate, has long seen fit to turn the national obsession with professional sports into their own version of idol worship. Players who earn millions merely for their skills in throwing a ball or swinging a bat are turned into near deities, partially because their admirers saw rooting for their favorite team as an act of patriotism.
Now as many of these very same players have decided to make a very public demonstration of impertinence and disrespect for the United States and its anthem, Americans have suddenly awoken to the fact that the men they worship as deities have bitten the hand that feeds them so generously, making a mockery of concepts like patriotism and respect for one’s own country.
If there is a silver lining in this sorry saga, it will be that hopefully, the absurd and futile idol worship of professionally sports players will now be reexamined and reconsidered.