Not another 1,000-word essay, but too complicated for 140 characters on Twitter …
The Spirit game this weekend at Seattle will surely be interesting. But I think all eyes are going to be on Columbus on Thursday, when the USWNT plays Thailand.
I have to distinguish between two sentiments here:
Personally, I would have no issue with Rapinoe or her teammates taking a knee during the anthem. And if I were covering the game, I’d happily ask her afterwards if she feels she’s making any progress getting the country to learn and talk more about race.
Pragmatically, I fear the worst if Rapinoe kneels during the anthem. We have to recognize that some people are offended by protests during the anthem, whether we agree with them or not. To do so while wearing a U.S. uniform raises issues that don’t exist when she’s representing the Seattle Reign. It’s like arguing within a family vs. arguing about your family in front of other people. I know plenty of people in the non-Twitterverse — including many who would otherwise sympathize with everything Megan Rapinoe says — who would have a serious problem with protesting during the anthem while repping the country.
Again (repeating because I feel people really want to focus on the parts with which they disagree, which is actually an extreme example of what I talked about in last night’s post), I have to stress that I personally would not be offended. Though it’s not a First Amendment issue (the Constitution does not guarantee employment), I think the free expression of kneeling outweighs the symbolism of the national anthem. (Which, in my eyes, is not a memorial to fallen veterans, and I think it’s a stretch for Bill Lynch to construe it as such.)
But pragmatically, would kneeling during the anthem at a USWNT game further Rapinoe’s cause of trying to open a discussion of race relations? That discussion has been … well, hijacked. What’s the next step forward? Bow in prayer as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did?
I’m open to being convinced that it would work. Maybe she would be like Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics — vilified at the time but now seen as taking a heroic stand.
I’m skeptical. But I’m ready to listen.
I know some people would say, “Damn the consequences! Speak and act as you see fit!” But that’s what Bill Lynch did Wednesday, and I don’t think it did any good at all. PR consultants may get a bad rap, but sometimes, we need to listen to them.