Our national anthem continues to be at the center of a fiery debate.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” has gone from being our country’s most beloved, popular and patriotic tune to a symbol co-opted by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is a symbol of the brethren that fought beneath those stripes and stars.
It’s all thanks to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sat when the anthem was played during a preseason football game. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said later. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
While many criticized the athlete as disrespectful and entitled, there was no doubt he started a trend with other athletes.
On Sunday, the entire Seattle Seahawks team decided to protest in solidarity by interlocking arms during the national anthem before their game against the Miami Dolphins. Four of the Dolphins’ team members also took a knee.
In another Sunday game, Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters raised a black-gloved fist during the anthem, as the team also locked arms during the anthem.
Singer Chris Brown also opted to sit out the anthem at a charity basketball game in Los Angeles.
These silent protests happened to fall on September 11, as services and ceremonies were remembering the terrorist attacks that happened 15 years ago.
Among those who didn’t approve: model and actress Kate Upton.
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Last week, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team player Megan Rapinoe (shown above) opted to kneel during the anthem before a game, as did members of the West Virginia Tech volleyball team.
President Obama has thrown his support behind Kaepernick’s refusal to stand, saying, “I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
It’s not just athletes turning their backs on the national anthem, either. Other public figures have taken issue with the song itself. Musician John Legend took to Twitter to not just show support for Kaepernick, but to take musical digs at the song.
“For those defending the current anthem, do you really truly love that song? I don’t, and I’m very good at singing it. Like, one of the best,” Legend humbly tweeted before linking his followers to an article blasting the national anthem as racist.
But until now it has been seen as nothing but patriotic.
“As a veteran who has seen combat during several deployments, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is a symbol of the brethren that fought beneath those stripes and stars,” Rio Hiett, a combat veteran, told LifeZette. He is the current lead singer of Madison Rising, a popular band most famous for rocking out to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“As [Francis Scott] Key wrote the lyrics, it was created with the fighting men’s spirit in mind,” said Hiett. “The never-quit and die-for-their-country beliefs are the foundation of the content. For me, it still depicts the never-quit, ever-moving forward, fighting spirit.”
Dave Bray, who headed Madison Rising when they first made a splash with their rock and roll version of the anthem, still plays the song in concerts and finds deep meaning in it as both a musician and veteran.
“This song stands for all that was, and is still, good in this country. It represents the hearts of a people that had to put aside their differences, their beliefs, their social status and yes, even their race in order to come together to fight and defeat a common enemy,” Bray told LifeZette.
He continues, “I’ve sung that song hundreds of times to thousands of people all over the world. Each time the reaction is the same. The pride and patriotism become almost tangible. You can truly feel it in the air. Much like the song itself, it’s not just meant to be sung or heard — it’s meant to be felt.”
Despite musicians like Legend working to disparage the national anthem, and athletes like Kaepernick using it as a platform to voice their protests, Hiett believes the song is still alive and well and carries a perfect message for today.
“When I perform this incredibly moving song and see the affect on those listening, it’s overwhelming,” said Hiett. “To know that greater men than I have given their lives protecting the flag and those under its coverage, is an honor that I will never take lightly.”