Kneeling for the national anthem at sporting events used to be the occasional episode of player activism protesting the United States as an evil racist empire. Amid the new 21st century woke revolution however, kneeling has become a key signifier for players and teams to declare which side of the culture wars one sits on.
It’s those who love America versus those who hate it, the latter of which despises the American flag and all that it represents as a relic of white supremacy that must be condemned.
Those who still stand out of respect for the nation’s ideals and the uniformed men and women who protect it are now the outliers forced to defend themselves in a new age of no dissent, because dissent is racist, racism is oppression, oppression is violence, and violence is not to be tolerated, even if it isn’t real.
Colin Kaepernick won. When he started, just one athlete refused to stand for national anthem. Now, just one athlete refuses to kneel during anthem. In course of weeks, a complete collapse of hallowed American ritual. pic.twitter.com/lXrFQvNU5C
— Byron York (@ByronYork) August 2, 2020
When several players and coaches decided to stand tall for the national anthem in recent weeks as sports made a limited return, they drew considerable attention online. They were pressured to make statements on their decisions that were still in support of the contemporary civil rights movement under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
“I fully support the social justice movement and everyone who chooses to kneel as a means of peaceful protest,” said NBA referee Brent Bernaky in a statement to ESPN. “For me personally, it’s important I stand for the national anthem, which is what I chose to do this evening. I believe you can be committed to both ideas and I will continue to support the league’s social justice efforts to help bring equality to this country.”
Rather amazing how quickly we went from “people should be able to kneel during the anthem as a form of protest” to “anyone who doesn’t kneel during the anthem must explain themselves”. https://t.co/7UCYRRr1Sc
— AG (@AGHamilton29) August 1, 2020
The Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac also refused to kneel on Friday during the national anthem while his teammates wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts with one knee on the ground.
“I believe that Black Lives Matter,” Isaac, who is black, told ESPN. “A lot went into my decision and part of it is my thought that kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don’t go hand in hand with supporting black lives.”
"I believe that Black Lives Matter. Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt doesn't go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives."
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) July 31, 2020
Isaac went on to tell ESPN that his faith played a role in the decision after becoming an ordained minister in March.
“I feel like for me black lives are supported through the Gospel,” Isaac said. “All lives are supported through the Gospel… I feel like the Bible tells us we all fall short of God’s glory and at the end of the day whoever will humble themselves and seek God and repent of their sins that we could see it in a different light.”
San Francisco Giants Pitcher Sam Coonrod also cited his Christian faith in his refusal to kneel even as each member of both teams took a knee, though Coonrod issued no support for Black Lives Matter.
“I’m a Christian, like I said, and I just can’t get on board with a couple of things that I have read about Black Lives Matter. How they lean towards Marxism and they’ve said some negative things about the nuclear family. I just can’t get on board with that,” Coonrod told NBC Sports, adding he “can’t kneel before anything besides God.”
As kneeling becomes a universal practice among teams, those who dare remain standing are now the ones who must explain themselves while the legacy of today’s supposed reckoning on race declaring American society as irredeemably racist cements itself in the mainstream culture.