In an opinion piece submitted to the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, Dr. McMickle discusses what happens on the field and in the stands after the singing of the National Anthem:

“I find the fuss about athletes kneeling during the national anthem to be completely inconsistent with what happens on the field and in the stands once the game begins. I understand why some players choose to kneel while the national anthem is being sung, even though the practice of singing while the players are on the field only began in 2009. I can also understand why some fans may view the act of not standing  during the national anthem as unpatriotic. My point in this essay is not to take sides on this issue. There are enough people willing to address both sides of the issue of whether to stand or kneel.

My problem with this debate is what happens as soon as the game begins. Players on both teams do everything in their power not just to win the game, but also to hurt and inflict as much pain as possible on one another. In my hometown of Chicago, the legendary Dick Butkus said he had dreams of hitting the quarterback of the opposing team so hard that he would knock his head off and send it rolling down the field. That is certainly something worth the singing of the national anthem. When I was living in Cleveland, OH I worried about taking my son to a game of the  Cleveland Browns, because of all the drunks in the stands who consumed so much beer during the game that they would end up cursing and even fighting with one another. This actually happened when I took him to a game between the Browns and the then Houston Oilers.

I remember going to a baseball game in New York City during my seminary student years when the New York Mets were playing my beloved Chicago Cubs. I was wearing my Cubs cap and cheering for my favorite team and players. Suddenly, someone from a few rows behind me threw a cup of beer on my head. I was told that I was  given that “baptism of beer” because I was wearing the “cap of the enemy”, and because I was not cheering for the home team. That happened after we had all sung the national anthem that was supposed to unite us as Americans under  a common flag, according to those who criticize today’s NFL players. 

If fans have the freedom to get drunk and be belligerent during the game, then why should the players not have the freedom to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest? It was after the national anthem had been sung in Boston, when a Red Sox fan shouted racial insults at a player on the opposing team. It was after the national anthem had been sung that the Boston Red Sox coaches were caught using cell phone technology to steal pitch signs from the New York Yankees. It was after the national anthem had been sung when players in most sports played with the benefit of performance enhancing drugs. 

The focus on a few players kneeling on the field seems to have obscured the cheating that is regularly done through cork-filled bats, under inflated footballs, excessive violence at hockey games, and “doping” done by swimmers, bikers, runners, and golfers. My point is that nothing happens once the games begin that is consistent with the “honor America” practice of singing the national anthem before those games begin. The two things are disconnected.

I was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college, and the national anthem was never played or sung at any of those games or matches. It never seemed strange to me, because I could never understand what a patriotic song had to do with a fiercely partisan sporting event.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag is a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. That is a far-cry from athletes peacefully protesting a social issue by kneeling during the national anthem. 

However the protests end over kneeling during the national anthem, the true soul of America is on display on the field and in the stands. I suspect the concussions and intentional violence on the field and the bad behavior in the stands will continue. Perhaps Donald Trump ought to tweet about that.  Oh say can you see that?”

Marvin A. McMickle, Ph.D.

President, CRCDS