Last year I wrote a letter to the editor explaining my support for San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel during the singing of the national anthem. What followed was an almost unanimous opposition to my view: from people at the Shabbos table to family and friends. Presently, that vehemence of expression has multiplied geometrically as large swaths of football players and even entire teams have knelt or stayed absent during the singing of the national anthem. Even one singer of the anthem knelt! Most of the recent controversy was reignited by the weekend statements of President Trump.
Just to reiterate since I have the pen, kneeling during the national anthem on the one hand repulses me, but on the other hand I completely understand and agree with one’s right to use whatever legal platform one has available to shout out that which one feels strongly about. Why should the right to object be limited to one’s own home? Shouldn’t we have used any and every forum to scream bloody murder about the Holocaust instead of the ghetto Jew mentality of “offending” the goyim? I always was repulsed when Vanessa Redgrave would express her support for the Palestinians when she received an Academy Award, but as much as that offended me I can’t help but kvell about the extent of pride I had when Howard Stern or the late Joan Rivers stood proudly with the state of Israel.
One uses the forum they choose to express their rights. Limiting that forum would amount to nothing short of censorship and lead to greater threats to Americans and Jews in particular. One could interpret the very reasons that our great members of the armed forces wear the uniform was in a sense just so that we can express oppositional views in forums where people abhor it. If a team owner wants to fire their entire teams or individual players [Kaepernick has not been signed yet] that is also their right, although as an attorney I can see a racial discrimination case brewing if that took place. Note that Robert Kraft, a very well-meaning Jew and Trump supporter, came out in opposition to Trump’s statements and said: “I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.” Even Tom Brady locked arms with fellow players in a sign of solidarity.
Lastly, don’t misunderstand me. I think that refusing to stand during the national anthem is disrespectful to more than the members of our armed forces, but to deny one their right or blast one who does not stand during the national anthem is disrespectful to our Bill of Rights, the “Holiest of Holies” in our great country. We should use this season of teshuva to address the reasons why some are not standing rather than further divide us with scorn and derision. G’mar Tov.