Yesterday my heart was broken for my country. Yesterday my heart was broken for the game of football. Yesterday my heart was broken for the hard work of Alabama University’s Million Dollar Band.
Yesterday 30 college students decided that it was not only their right, but also their duty to sit down during the playing of The Star Spangle Banner at the Alabama football game. They decided to disrespect America and anything it stands for because there is one issue that they feel injustice for, therefore, they had no regard for the disrespect that they were inflicting upon people who deserve no blame for the injustice they feel.
The story of The Star Spangle Banner spans way past this age of indignation, and into a long, painful, and beautiful American story. It represents freedom. It represents hard work. It represents independent rights. It represents a pride and peace that occurred the morning after a bloody and heart-wrenching storm.
A man looked up from the rubble and saw freedom, hope, pride in a lone flag that stood amongst the destruction, and he was so moved by this symbol that he wrote a poem that has surpassed years of American history, years of American oppression, years of movements beyond this oppression, years of devastation that has carried us unified as a country through terrorist attacks to natural disasters. This song has been there for America through years of need and years of prosperity. This song has carried America through far more than any single person, than any single riot, than any single rebellion.
There’s a reason that Olympic athletes cry when they hear this song. There’s a reason that war veterans stand taller when they hear this song. It’s a powerful song that represents a country that I love, so yes, I do take personal offense for myself, this country, our military, and even Francis Scott Key when a group of students think that they are superior to such values.
Was it the students’ Constitutional right to sit down during this song? Yes. These rights are what make America the free democratic nation that it is. Is it my right to open a diner and discriminate against a certain type of gender or ethnic group. Technically, yes, but a constitutional right does not justify it as an ethical right, and I would dare to predict that the people who were sitting at that game would be the same group of people standing outside this diner demanding that my business license be revoked immediately.
Beyond the disrespect of the country, this is disrespectful to the game of football. I realize that this might seem so small to so many. I understand that you might see it as, “just a silly game,” however, after years in the south, I have seen with my own eyes that football is so much more than a game to so many people. Try telling the athletes who have spent countless hours training, lifting, sweating, and preparing that it’s just a game. Try telling the fan who chose to spend his whole Saturday driving, tail-gating, and cheering on his team, winning or losing, rain or shine, that it’s just a game. Try telling your fellow student who has put down her books, dressed in her team colors, and joined her friends to enjoy a Saturday in the excitement of that stadium that it’s just a game.
Football is more than just a game. It is someone’s dream. It’s a wonderful part of the American dream. It’s someone’s life of hard work. It’s someone’s favorite way to spend his weekend. It is someone’s escape, escape from school, escape from work, escape from reality, escape from politics. It is someone’s escape from the politics that is plaguing and corrupting every inch on America, and you just had to bring it into this sacred space where all that should really matter for those three hours is touchdowns and yellow flags.
There are places to protest, and there are places that you just don’t. Trust me, I fully support that you stand up for what you believe in, and more than that I am all for you keeping it peaceful. However, in my opinion, a football game is one of the few places in America where every race, every gender, and every age are unified in the common place of the same team. To disrupt this unity is completely unnecessary. These games bring people together, and this movement ripped these unities apart.
And to top it all off, that was incredibly disrespectful of Alabama University’s Million Dollar Band. I don’t know if you know anyone in that band, but I do, and I know that those musicians have spent long hours in the heat, the cold, and in in everything in between preparing that performance of our country’s song. I know that those musicians put countless hours into creating the fantastic show that they put on for that crowd every weekend, and it leaves me completely aghast to think that thirty people in that audience thought that it was okay to completely disregard that hard work, and sit down drawing all of the attention away from the those who deserved it and onto themselves.
The lack of respect in this whole situation leaves me angry. It leaves me broken hearted, but most of all it leaves me confused. I’m confused how someone could see this act that is so deliberate and offensive to so many innocent people as just and even selfless. I am confused by the fact that people are accepting, even encouraging, of this behavior, despite the disrespect. And most of all, I am confused by the fact that people who want so desperately to “unify America” are rejecting a huge majority of Americans and the things that they value.
I love my country. I love the men who keep it safe. I love the athletes who play the game they love every weekend with passion to keep the American dream alive. I love the bands who stand tall and proud every time they play that sacred and moving song.
I repeat, I love my country, and for as long as my body allows, I will stand every time I hear it’s anthem play. I invite you to stand with me.
photo credit: Molly Kight and Chelsea Sweet