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OPINION: Bill Walton, Taking a Knee

Taking the Oath and Genuflecting in American Football
20171012 oath walton

For those of you who have not been following the news and excitement of American footballers ‘taking a knee’ during the playing of their national anthem, and Prez T’s outrage about this disrespect, it has all been a huge misunderstanding. This is according to the captain of the Penguins who recently visited 1600 Pennsylvania. I see a future for him in the Diplomatic Corps.

According to the fellow(s) who started this knee thing during the Stars and Stripes, they wanted to show their displeasure at the way people of colour were being treated by the police and others all the way up to the Oval Office. They explained that they were not disrespecting the military nor the Flag nor the singing. Well, maybe the singing, for surely some renditions of the difficult anthem are disrespectful and atrocious to any musicologist. Or dogs with sensitive ears.

There is a little protocol about what one should do when hearing or singing a country’s national anthem. Especially if you are of a patriotic twist. There is, of course, the question of why they sing anthems at sporting events. I can understand it for gold medal ceremonies at the Olympics when national teams and individuals represent their country with pride. Nonetheless, there are some things one apparently ought to do: Stand at attention if you know how; men should remove their hats or caps unless they are wearing military headdress and then should salute during the song; sing the song if you can or at least stop chewing gum, spitting or snacking on popcorn; do not fidget or talk on your cell phone – most anthems are only a minute long. It is sort of like taking the oath of allegiance at a Canadian citizenship ceremony or more often in America, where they take that patriotism very seriously.

My wife says that this nationalism and patriotism is a bit of a chimaera – a fabrication of the mind. What with immigration, world trade, and especially off-shore banking and investing by foreign powers, I suppose she has a point. The other definition of the old Greek word may apply to some of our world leaders.

In any case, if you are not up on the news about kneeing then you most likely have not been following this on Twitter either. Here is a recap of posts when the Pittsburgh Penguins came to the White House:

P: Good to see you NHL players being so Patriotic – not like those sons of bees in football. Disgrace. Total disgrace. You are true champions and incredible patriots.

S: Yes sir, but I’m a Canadian, as are 7 others on the team; Yuri is Russian; Karl and Olaf are from Sweden, and Yaki is from Finland.

P: Yes, but you are not taking the knee. Very respectful.

S: Hard to do on skates, sir. We do try to stand still and take off our helmets. And meaning no disrespect, sir, but taking a knee in our country is a sign of respect.

P: Can’t be. I heard on Fox News that this was a sign of disrespect – even to our soldiers. God Bless America.

S: Perhaps it is because we still have some loyalty to the Crown, sir. Back in days of yore, people took a knee when they met royalty – to show respect. Or maybe it was even religious. Some people just took a knee but others, depending on their choice of faith, took both knees when saying prayers or making petitions to their priests.

P. Never thought of that. You mean those over-paid well-tanned ungrateful football players may have been showing more respect by taking a knee than the fellows just a-standing there looking uncomfortable?

S: That’s how I would see it, sir.

P: You Canadian Penguins sure do look at things differently. I think you are right. I’m going to tweet that tomorrow. Thank those Sons of Bees for showing all that respect.  Love that symbolism of kneeling to the Flag – and me. What’s your name again?

S: They used to call me Sid the Kid, sir.

P: Should get you on my staff. Got a good eye. Good ear, too. Good hands too. I heard that on Fox Sports. Say hi to all those penguins at the North Pole. Eh? Ha ha. All you Canadians say Eh – even your Primer Minister.

S: Uh, sir – there are no penguins at the North Pole.

P: Sure there are – I saw them in Coke ad. Polar bears and penguins.  Glad you came down.  Gotta go and tweet about that taking the knee. Bet when those fellows realize what they have been doing they will become patriotic heroes. Showing the nation how to respect the flag, the military, the song, and me. Fantastic. Wonderful job.

S: Uh, sir? Will the cancelling of NAFTA have any impact on us playing hockey in the States?

P: Not a problem. We’ll get a bilateral agreement. There aren’t any Mexicans playing in the NHL, are there? Gotta Go. Tweet time.