During the NFL preseason, when 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the National Anthem, he touched off a protest movement as well as a firestorm of criticism from NFL fans.
Since that first protest, more players have taken up the gauntlet, and more fans have pledged to stop supporting the NFL until the movement is stopped. Attendance appears to be down, and the number of people pledging to #BoycottNFL is way up.
But the protest has created other, unintentional results. Folks have begun to look at the Star Spangled Banner, including some verses that people don’t sing at sporting events … or ever, really. Others have come out and said they just don’t feel like the song embodies their experience as Americans … or all Americans in general.
While many contemporary singers, even some who have sung the anthem in the past, have gone on record to say they will not ever sing the anthem again, others have taken a different view. Many cite what has come to be considered one of the best renditions of the Star Spangled Banner ever, Whitney Houston’s performance at the Super Bowl, as a powerful moment. A strong black woman singing a song – and singing it very well – creating a moment that united the country in a time when the country needed very much to be united.
Other artists, like activist, singer, and songwriter Alicia Keys, who is biracial, feel they have an obligation to help bridge the widening gap between races in the United States. That may very well have been what Kaepernick was trying to do, as he is also bi-racial. So far, if that’s the case, his message hasn’t hit the mark.
In an interview, quoted by the Associated Press, Keys said: “There’s some great things that have carried on for generations and generations, and there’s some things that have to change, like that was an old way of thinking and now if we’re going to move toward really looking at each other in the same eyes and in the spirit of oneness, then we have to make changes from past mistakes…”
How to address and “make changes” has become a hot-button social and political issue in modern America. Every attempt to speak to this situation requires a careful consideration of the PR implications and the assumed message. Tread carefully, people.