National Treasure Jackie Robinson Also Refused to Stand for National Anthem
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about how 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has decided not to stand for the national anthem prior to NFL games because he says he can’t “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” And as you probably also know from all the memes and hot takes and tweets, a lot of people are very, very angry about it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Colin Kaepernick is probably the most-hated athlete in America.
Of course, he’s also simultaneously a hero to millions of people who feel like their voices are not heard. And that’s not me trying to take sides. That’s me stating a simple fact.
One thing Colin Kaepernick is not, though, is a trailblazer. Other athletes over the years have expressed mixed feelings about standing for the national anthem, including one who is today regarded as one of the greatest heroes in sports. I am talking about Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball’s color barrier and is so widely revered that, every year on Jackie Robinson Day, ever player in MLB wears his number 42.
In a passage in his 1974 memoir I Never Had It Made, Robinson admitted that he, too, could not stand and salute the flag.
Take a look:
There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.
Obviously, Colin Kaepernick is not Jackie Robinson. The context of his protest is different. But it wouldn’t hurt us to take a few minutes to think about what he’s trying to say before calling him names on the internet.
Hat Tip – [FTW]