In her Chicago Tribune opinion piece asking why no team has signed controversial NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who infamously took a knee in protest last season when "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played before games — writer Diana Goetsch carved out some space to rip the national anthem, calling it a "pompous battle number":
Unlike the magisterial "America the Beautiful," "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a pompous battle number. Spurred by a petition bearing 5 million veterans' signatures, Congress designated it the national anthem in 1931, but it wasn't until 1942, and our entry into World War II, that it was played on loudspeakers daily before games.
Most NFL fans don't recall that players traditionally remained in the locker room during the national anthem — up until 2009. That's when the Pentagon started paying the NFL, and the league moved players out to the field to salute the flag and look patriotic. Likewise, it hasn't taken long for fans to lose all memory of a time when soldiers weren't routinely honored on game day, and few would think to ask why military personnel are any more entitled to a halftime tribute than schoolteachers, or bricklayers or the custodians who clean the stadium.
Goetsch also called attention to the "the awkward melody of our national anthem, which was taken from a British pub song."
She also takes issue with the "pageantry accompanying the national anthem" at NFL games, including "flags the size of cornfields ... military flyovers, color guards and lots of people in uniform saluting."
Goetsch says that "even before 9/11, no ritual has been more baked into spectator sports than fans being told to rise for the singing of 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' And none is more deceiving."
As for the still-jobless Kaepernick, Goetsch argues that he has numbers to show he's "better than most backups and several starters," yet NFL team "employ players who've been arrested for domestic violence, including five who were newly drafted in 2017 ..."
"In other words," she writes, "what's worse in the eyes of the NFL — players beating women or kneeling for the national anthem? Answer: kneeling, and it's not even close."
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers kneels for the national anthem before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)
Her op-ed adds:
While fans do it out of habit or peer pressure, saluting the flag before a football game makes about as much sense as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before seeing a movie or walking the dog. NFL games are contests between privately owned companies that exist for the profit of their owners. All appearance otherwise is marketing, which includes the pink equipment players are encouraged to wear during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; the red, white and blue NFL shield; or the branding of football as "America's game."
The holy grail of marketing, the product even more crucial to a franchise's success than its won-lost record, is fan loyalty. The NFL sells its huge audience to TV networks, but also to the U.S. Department of Defense. A Senate Joint Oversight report on "Paid Patriotism" found that between 2011 and 2015, the Pentagon paid $5.4 million to 14 NFL teams in exchange for military "tributes." The propaganda comes from all angles — stadium parachute drops, "hometown heroes" lit up on the Jumbotron, player cameos at soldiers' homecomings, cheerleader photo ops with wounded veterans. Taxpaying fans, the targets of these "heartfelt" gestures, were unwittingly paying the bill for them until the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act outlawed the practice.
Some commenters didn't appreciate Goestch's words, particularly her take on the national anthem.
"Uh, yeah!" one wrote. "A battle cry that gives even sorry low-life leftist like you, and Colin the right to spew your vile hatred for America. What a terrible place we live in. I am sure the 11,000 men who fought in the Battle of Baltimore, or the 28 who died, or the 163 maimed for the rest of their lives, appreciate your ungrateful and arrogant attitude. Just how long do traditions need to be around for your sour puss to accept them."
Another commenter tersely concluded "the author of this article is a pathetic Leftist who has absolutely no clue."
"And the author of this piece seems to think that symbols of patriotism are 'propaganda,' which says quite a bit about the mentality of smug writers from New York," another person observed.
(H/T: The Daily Wire)