“Chicago Blackhawks fans have a tradition for the playing of our national anthem: They cheer. They holler. They applaud,” explained Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski. “Their volume at home games can drown out the words and music.” Apparently, this raucous behavior during the rendition of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been going on for years.
A Post column in 2012 explored how Baltimore Orioles fans’ habit of shouting “Oh!” during the national anthem has made its way to the pregame ceremonies of the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Capitals and other teams.
Michael Phelps laughed during the playing of the national anthem as he picked up his 20th gold medal last year. He said his “boys from Baltimore were down at the other end,” yelling “Oh.” He said, “Back in Maryland, we all say ‘Oh!’ for the Orioles during that part of the national anthem.”
I am a product of my history. I, like millions of other Americans, was taught to pledge allegiance to the flag in grade school. We stood, placed our right hands over our hearts and repeated the words.
As with millions, I have stood on my feet during the rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in school, at college, during military service and public service, and always when called upon to do so at other events.
But I take my national anthem straight: No cheering, hollering, applauding or talking during the rendition. No adding words like “Oh!” or a team’s name or anything else. Just the words I was taught.
So are Blackhawks fans rude and disrespectful? Is the tradition of adding, changing or twisting words to the national anthem offensive?
Adulterating “The Star-Spangled Banner” is annoying and not for me. However, it’s also not for me to decide whether, when or how fans in the stands or athletes on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond exercise their constitutional rights.
Enter the killing of unarmed African Americans by police. Enter evidence of the continued presence of white supremacy and racial injustices. Enter NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem last year. He said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since then, other black players have chosen to express themselves through Kaepernick’s mode of protest.
Enter bombastic President Trump last week with his racial-politics-driven campaign to ignore the Constitution and see fired any “son of a b----” on the field who protests by taking a knee during the anthem. That attempt at bullying, along with his petulant decision to publicly disinvite NBA champion Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors from the White House, only added fuel to the fire, while further lowering his stature as president.
Last weekend’s protests were in support of Kaepernick and the other athletes who silently and peacefully call attention to America’s unfilled promises. But they were also conducted in defiance and as a rebuke of Trump and his disdain for the Constitution and for the defamatory language he directed against Americans protesting injustice.
Trump tweets that players should “stop disrespecting our Flag & Country.”
Flag and country are not out of my mind.
How could I not think of flag and country when I consider the actions of a hostile foreign power attempting to corrupt our basic American democratic franchise? The thought of Russia interfering in our presidential election to help Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton is as stunning as it is outrageous. But that is what Russian President Vladimir Putin did, according to the U.S. intelligence community. A clear threat to flag and country.
Trump questioned the patriotism of the protesting athletes. How is it patriotic for him and his private-jet-obsessed — and now former — health and human services secretary to take away health insurance from millions of Americans, as would have happened with their support for proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act? What a display of national devotion.
Protect flag and country? By insulting, goading and threatening foreign leaders and international institutions around the globe?
We all sing with gusto: “Land of the free and home of the brave.” But watch as the president’s eyes glaze over at talk of injustice. Watch them light up at any chance to exploit racial and social divisions for political gain.
“ With liberty and justice for all.” Now, achieving that American ideal is worth fighting — and standing up — for.
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