Gorch on the Porch: It's our right to protest

Photo by Scott AllenMichigan City football players stand during the national anthem on Friday before their season opener against Griffith at Ames Field.

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” — excerpt from little known third verse of The Star Spangled Banner

So the trend of sitting or kneeling during the national anthem in the National Football League started by former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season has continued even though Kaepernick isn’t playing right now.

The latest players to join the silent protest in light of last week’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, are Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks, former Seahawks and current Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who chooses to raise his right fist in protest during the anthem before games.

There’s been plenty of consternation about the protests, ranging from calling the players un-American or unappreciative since they are paid millions of dollars — which really has nothing to do with how they feel about persecution in this country — to people saying being an American means we have the constitutional right to sit or kneel or put a fist in the air during the anthem because that’s what freedom is all about. In fact, many military veterans have supported the protests because that right is what they fought for.

Jenkins said he wishes more than just black athletes would protest, since they are the only ones doing it so far. He got his wish as his Eagles’ teammate, defensive end Chris Long, whose hometown is Charlottesville, came out in defense of Jenkins.

“I support my peers,” Long told reporters on Thursday. “If you don’t see why you need to be allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it. Malcolm is a leader, and I am here to show support as a white athlete. It’s all of our thing to get involved in.”

Long’s display of support was standing by Jenkins’ side and putting his arm around him as the latter raised his fist during the anthem.

And that brings us to my reason for bringing up the anthem. As a white man, I can’t relate to what black men and women go through. They have been persecuted since this nation started, and it hasn’t gotten much better in recent years. In fact, when the highest-ranking elected official in the United States isn’t helping the situation with his rhetoric and insensitivity, I’d venture to say it’s getting worse.

If I saw somebody protesting during the anthem like Jenkins — and I was looking on Friday night at Michigan City’s home opener at Ames Field — I would think about doing the same as Long, because we’re all on the same ‘team’ as human beings and Americans.

White people angry with anyone protesting during the anthem need to realize they can’t relate to the plight of black people, so how can they criticize? Judge not lest ye be judged.

Speaking of biblical verses, I think “God Bless America” should be our national anthem, not a song with racist roots. That third verse of the Star Spangled Banner above isn’t well known. It clearly talks about slaves with some historians saying it glorifies a victory in the War of 1812 over the Corps of Colonial Marines, which was a unit of black salves recruited by Great Britain to fight against America — they were given a promise of freedom for turning on their countrymen.

The man who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, was a wealthy lawyer who owned slaves and was quoted as stating that African-Americans were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community,” according to Smithsonian.com.

Doesn’t the last line of every verse in Key’s song contain the words, “the land of the free.” Guess he wasn’t talking about the slaves from that ‘inferior race of people.’

Knowing the history of the song, why wouldn’t anyone — not just black athletes — protest during the national anthem? In fact, maybe we need to stop playing it before sporting events since it’s such a hot button issue and obviously, not a song that embodies the ideals of the United States Constitution.

I’ve never sung the Star Spangled Banner or put my hand on my heart, because there are things about this country that make me weep inside, and this goes back 20-plus years, in case anyone thinks I’m only referring to the current political climate. I put my hands behind my back and patiently wait for a song I don’t like to be done so I can watch some sports.

But maybe I should sit or kneel as a show of support for black men and women who have every right to be upset with the way they are treated. It’s the right thing to do.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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