Current Affairs

Insulting National Anthem is Not Acceptable

Yatindra Bhatnagar

This can happen only in America. Taking shelter behind Free Speech, these multi-millionaire NFL players insult the National Anthem and the Star Spangled Banner – the pride of our country – with impunity and get away with that obnoxious behavior. This is the depth of insolence and totally un-American conduct and it deserves widespread condemnation. 

The sad part is that these un-patriotic, un-grateful and un-ashamed athletes are not only applauded by some sections of the players and others but their employer- teams also have not shown any spine to punish them. 

That’s extremely shameful. That’s un-American and that’s anti-national – for those who insult and for those who tolerate and even applaud the obnoxious behavior.

The Flag and the National Anthem are symbols of our nation. They have nothing to do with a political party or the government of the day. The ones who insult these national symbols have chosen an extremely wrong way to protest whatever real or perceived grievance they have. 

To me, for these grievances, howsoever genuine or exaggerated they may be, there are other avenues to raise, other remedies to pursue and other forums to express your anger. The targets for your wrath should not be The Flag, not the Anthem. 

With these terrible tactics nothing can be achieved, only you alienate a large section of nationalist, patriotic Americans who buy tickets, see your games, applaud your achievement and treat you as their heroes. What you do is also insult them unashamedly. In other words you show that you are absolutely ungrateful to the nation that has given you money and fame and you also don’t care about the feelings of many more millions of people – the silent majority - of America.

There are people who insult the Flag by burning it, stomping over it and tear it down to show their anger in the name of Free Speech. Sadly, this has been accepted by a misguided Supreme Court in 1989-90. The Court allowed burning, stepping on, drawing on, or representing the flag in artwork in an unflattering manner as ‘acts of political expression. ’

The American Congress discussed this issue in the past and came close to a decision but failed. The lawmakers could not get a good majority to either enact a law or amend the Constitution to make insult of the Flag and the National Anthem a criminal offence punishable with jail or fine or both. Insulting these symbols of the nation is not Free Speech; it’s extremely offensive conduct and a criminal act.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens had described in 1989 the importance of the need to protect the national symbol. “It is more than a proud symbol of the courage, the determination, and the gifts of nature that transformed 13 fledgling Colonies into a world power,” he wrote. “It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of good will.”

In the recent case of two brothers Michael and Martellus Bennett both made clear ‘political statements’ during their season-opening reunion game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

Reporter Melissa Caskey wrote that “Michael Bennett, who revealed last week that he was handcuffed and pushed to the ground by Las Vegas police, sat during the National Anthem on the Seahawks’ sideline. On the opposite sideline, his brother - a tight end for the Packers - held his right fist in the air while standing. [They both are black people.]

Seahawks center Justin Britt continued his show of support for Michael, resting his hand on his back. Britt showed his support in August after Michael called out white players to join him in protesting the anthem.”

After the news of this weird and terrible protest was printed several comments were posted all over. I had also commented by saying that these people should be ashamed of themselves for insulting the National Anthem that has nothing to do with what they are supposed to be protesting against. The National Anthem, like the Star Spangled Banner - the National Flag - is above all the narrow consideration of race, ethnicity, color, gender etc. It’s a symbol of national pride and those who insult the Anthem and the Flag are insulting the nation and should be punished. The least punishment is to show them the 'Red Card.' The team management should adopt a strict rule and should not allow any insult to these national symbols. The majority of American public doesn't approve of these cheap tactics that defame the teams, the game and their country - if they love their country - America. If they don't, there are many who will help them pack and leave – for the Middle East, Africa, or North Korea if that suits them or allows them this form of free speech.