Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The national anthem is more than a sports tradition

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Oh long may it wave, O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!”
– Francis Scott Key

On Sept. 13, 1814, a few weeks after the British attacked Washington, D.C. and burned the president's house and the capital, the British began the bombarding of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Throughout the night, American lawyer Francis Scott Key watched the British annihilate Boston with rockets and explosives. Key felt there was no way America could beat the British.

Key felt hopeless as darkness arrived and “all through the night” the sky was blood red. But as the smoke cleared to "dawn's early light," the American flag, not the Union Jack, flew high, announcing America’s victory! Tattered and torn, sailing in the wind, it sent a message to the British:

“We fight with a purpose, and fight we must and this be our motto: In God is our trust.”
– Francis Scott Key

Baltimore was a key American shipping port and the British blasted the former colonies with their entire arsenal. Key, trapped aboard his vessel during the battle, had penned his thoughts during the night. But it was not until the next day in his hotel room that he scribed his notes into cadence with an English folk song. And this humble effort gave birth to our anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Key’s brother-in-law distributed his song under the name "Defense of Fort M'Henry," and soon the Baltimore Patriot printed it, naming it "The Star-Spangled Banner." Within weeks, every newspaper in the nation featured it. Little did Key know, his one act to patronize those brave Americans who fought in the Battle of Baltimore in his own words would forever pay the highest tribute to the flag of his great nation.

“Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
– Francis Scott Key

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was always the national anthem for most Americans and our military. When the U.S. entered World War I, it was played daily around the nation. But it was not until 1919, when radio engineer Frank Conrad broadcasted it, that President Woodrow Wilson designated it as America’s national anthem. In March of 1931, Congress passed the official act and Hoover signed it into law.

During the first game of the 1918 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the rival Chicago Cubs, the band began to play “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The fans rose from their seats and put their hands over their hearts and began to sing. The players followed, placing their caps over their hearts. They turned toward the centerfield flagpole and sang with them. Following a thunderous applause, the band played it again and they have never stopped playing it for the last 150 years.

Singing The Star-Spangled Banner that day showed America’s deep respect for our nation. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was so proud he began each game playing America’s song. Soon, every team played it before every game. It became such a hit, after the war ended, the song was played at all baseball games. In 1942 during World War II, with so many brave players fighting for world freedom, the National Football League joined baseball by playing the anthem to show support for our troops.

No patriots ever thought our national anthem would be used to de-unify our nation. Yet today, our anthem is a protest platform with NFL players. When Nike hired NFL protester Colin Kaepernick for their “Just Do It" campaign, many retailers pulled their shoes off the shelves. And that ignited the current trend criticizing the 150-year connection between our anthem and sports.

“Men may argue ingeniously against our faith, but what can they say in defense of their own?”
– Francis Scott Key

On Aug. 14, 2016, when Kaepernick first chose to remain seated during the national anthem at an NFL game, the liberal media started a campaign to discredit those who did not support him. But the fans claimed his behavior was disrespectful to the nation and the military and continued to criticize him. While Kaepernick contends this was a protest against racial injustice, most fans still disagree.

After speaking with former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, Kaepernick amended his protest, opting to instead take a knee to emphasize he was not disrespecting the military, yet many in the military disagreed. Like cancer, this spread to other sports and has fueled disrespect for our flag and America by violent protesters around the nation who see this as way to get what they want.

Since Kaepernick and others are role models for our youth, the result of their on-field antics create a false perception among thousands of gullible Americans; it is “cool” to emulate these high profile athletes and disrespect the national anthem also. And this misbehavior leads to violent unpatriotic assaults against innocent citizens and horrific illegal acts against government and our leaders.

The new left claims these players have a right to do this under the First Amendment. They say it is political, not unpatriotic. Yet protesters are using our anthem to defame America for anything they dislike. Most Americans consider this disrespecting the flag, police and military. They claim they have no right to do this when they pay their salaries and franchise owners make the rules for work.

“I do not believe there are any new objections to be discovered to the truth.”
– Francis Scott Key

Under pressure from fans who threatened to boycott sporting events, on May 23, 2018, the league clarified their policy requiring all players to stand during the anthem, or remain in the locker rooms during its performance. Owners sided with their fans and their 150 year history of singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at all events, which has been a tradition since first played during World War I in 1918.

Although the NFL agreement was reached unanimously by the league owners, the players union cried the blues. Commissioner Roger Goodell replied, “We want players to respect the national anthem. We’ve been sensitive giving them choices, but we expect them to stand and show respect for us.”

No business finances any employee to participate in political protests while they should be working. And no employers would tolerate any who tried to do this. And those who imprudently did would be fired in a New York City minute!

“Employers don’t pay people to express their emotions.”
– Simon Sinek

The moment these prima donnas enter the playing field they are on company time. Since the fans are the stock holders and pay the bills, and team owners write the work rules to maintain the fan base, these players are obligated to do what the owners want while on the field. They have no right to carry on personal protests while on the job. Any other person who acted like this would be given a pink slip. That’s why no other American pro football team will give Colin Kaepernick a job today.

Francis Scott Key wanted to honor the men who fought for his country. His only motive was to pay tribute to our nation and our troops. Key’s patriotic rendering still stands today as the benchmark of respect for our nation and its troops. It has nothing to do with politics. It’s not just a tradition; it is an obligation we must respect our anthem.

“Then in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?”
–Frances Scott Key

Contributing Columnist William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13.