Saluting The Off-Field National Anthem Statement Of The Pittsburgh Steelers

American Flag, POW-MIA flag, Park Forest flag, National Anthem
The United States Flag, the POW-MIA flag, and the Park Forest flag fly against a blue sky on Memorial Day, 2017. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)
Commentary by Gary Kopycinski, Editor and Publisher

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- All riser for the singing our national anthem:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

-Francis Scott Key
(Emphasis added.)

Francis Scott Key, we’re told, a prisoner on a British ship during the War of 1812, wrote the poem that eventually became the national anthem of the United States. The War of 1812 began with a land-grab attempt on the part of the United States, an attempt to seize Canada from the British Empire.

But there’s more to Key’s story.

According to British historian Robin Blackburn, the words “the hireling and slave” allude to the thousands of ex-slaves in the British ranks organised as the Corps of Colonial Marines, who had been liberated by the British and demanded to be placed in the battle line “where they might expect to meet their former masters.”

Our friends at The Root tell us:

To understand the full “Star-Spangled Banner” story, you have to understand the author. Key was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He was, like most enlightened men at the time, not against slavery; he just thought that since blacks were mentally inferior, masters should treat them with more Christian kindness. He supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa and, with a few exceptions, was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.

Of particular note was Key’s opposition to the idea of the Colonial Marines. The Marines were a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. The Marines were not only a terrifying example of what slaves would do if given the chance, but also a repudiation of the white superiority that men like Key were so invested in.

And so, back to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sunday, prior to the Steelers-Bears match-up at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers elected to not take the field until the conclusion of the national anthem.  Post-anthem, the Steelers took the field to a chorus of boos. And, some Pittsburgh fans waving Terrible Towels.

The Steelers would have been welcomed by boos regardless of their decision to take the field ante-anthem or post-anthem.

Face it. They were, after all, in Chicago.

However, with a 23-17 OT loss to the Bears, some in my Facebook feed were declaring it “karma” that the Steelers lost, as if the Universe Itself (caps intended) were favoring those who stand to salute Old Glory during a song that became the national anthem of the United States more than a century after it was written. As if the Universe Itself were unaware, or, indeed, favored, the third, pro-slavery verse, of Key’s poem.

But it was not karma. All by themselves, the Pittsburgh Steelers are quite capable at times of finding many ways to lose a football game.

Another person on my FB feed questioned the patriotism of the Steelers. How dare they, after all, not come to the field for that great song?

Why direct such a comment to me? Grew up in Pittsburgh. Bleed Black and Gold. Through and through.

And there’s the problem.

Many have said that Colin Kaepernick had not right to do what he did when, beginning in 2016, he refused to stand for the national anthem. Professional athletes should leave their politics in the locker room. They have no right to bring their politics to the game. Kaepernick should never work again in the National Football League. How dare he, and now many other professional athletes, make a political statement on the field of play, before a national audience, where our children are watching!

Isn’t the truth, however, different?

Are not these same voices expecting professional athletes to make a political statement before each game?

Indeed, they are.

Standing for the national anthem is a political statement.

Some are offended because some athletes, Black athletes, choose to participate in this national political statement in a different way. Offering a different point of view.

#BlackLivesMatter

That’s the statement that drove Colin Kapernick to sit, or kneel, during the national anthem.

That statement, Black Lives Matter, which became a movement to protest police violence against African Americans.

Some tried to counter with a racist rant, “All Lives Matter.” Blacks, after all, can’t have a slogan of their own. White America must give permission for all such statements.

Some of my white friends will tell me that they understand “the Blacks,” and why “they” are upset. But “the Blacks” should not bring “their” politics into the national spotlight.

Some of my white friends will say there is a time when “the Blacks,” should share their points of view. But what time is that? When, exactly?

Some of my white friends will tell me that I shouldn’t be writing such things in a publication I created to bring news to the people of Park Forest. And beyond.

And others?

Others will echo, the with the full fury of the alt-right, the words of Donald Trump, President of the United States:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a rally for Republican senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special election next week to remain in the seat vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

In response to the President of the United States calling her a de facto “bitch,” Colin Kapernick’s mother responded on Twitter, the president’s favorite means of communicating with the nation and the world. “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!” Teresa Kapernick, who is white and Colin’s adoptive mother, said.

Americans cannot expect professional athletes to perform a political move, standing for the national anthem, and tell these same athletes they should keep their politics off the field when they make a political statement on the field, or by remaining off the field, during the playing of the national anthem.

Our national dialogue over racism far from over.

On the field and off.