Stand up and face the flag, put your right hand over your heart, and recite.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
Twelve Cleveland Browns players were kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem at the Browns preseason football game this week.
And, just as Colin Kaepernick before them, these players are being criticized for their “disrespectful” act. Some say the gesture insults those soldiers who have fought to protect their freedom. Other soldiers, meanwhile, while disagreeing with them, respect their right to make a statement, pointing out that this is, in fact, what they fought to protect.
This summer, as I watched Wonder Woman in the theater, I was moved. While I had some issues with the movie, the one moment that moved me most, the image that struck me as the most powerful and poignant, was when Wonder Woman knelt in No-Man’s Land. That image has stuck with me throughout the summer and has buoyed me up when I’ve felt overwhelmed. Which has led me to think about why. And I realize it’s about the power of kneeling.
And to the Republic for Which It Stands
The act of kneeling, of openly defying the call to stand and honor the flag, is an interesting choice. To protest the flag, the players could have chosen to sit on the benches, turn their backs to the flag, cross their arms, or choose any number of other poses in their protest that convey contempt and anger toward the flag that represents a country that has fallen short of its promise. Heck, in Charlottesville, we’ve seen “Americans” wave other flags, make other salutes, and convey that they disagree with the sentiment that we are…
One Nation, Under God, Indivisible
Instead of grandstanding, aggressive, assertive posturing, these players bowed down with heads low, as if in prayer. That is, in fact, how tight end Seth DeValve explained his participation. “I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country… And also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do. And that’s why I did what I did.”
With Liberty and Justice for All.
These players are being criticized for disrupting the status quo. This isn’t the time or place, some say, as if anyone pays attention to them or their words if they’re not discussing game-related matters any other time. The power of their act is that the conversation about race relations in America is forced to continue. Between Colin Kaepernick’s first kneel down and now, the problem has not gone away. Equality has not been achieved. All do not have liberty or justice.
Taking a Stand by Kneeling
Bowing down, shield up, knee to the ground, Wonder Woman is not weak. No, by drawing fire toward her, Wonder Woman strengthens others, allows them to move forward. She can take it. And by the time folks are done attacking her, progress has been made.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
Anyone who believes there is no cause for protest isn’t paying attention. The inconvenience of having to acknowledge people’s opinions (or the request to consider other people’s suffering) during a time of leisure is a luxury not everyone can afford.
The statement, and subsequent fallout, of the act of twelve players kneeling, will demonstrate the power of the pose. In a real-world, non-Wonder Woman way. Here’s hoping they can bear the weight to support their cause.