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Free speech in the ?Home of the Blues,' singing over ?the brave' in national anthem disrespects veterans more than silently kneeling
St. Louis American - 10/18/2017
As a 30-year St. Louis Blues fan, I have never attended a Blues game for the Star-Spangled Banner-induced adulation regarding my 20-plus years military service. Nor, to be fair, would I be distressed by players who might take a knee on the ice in protest.
Yet despite my personal views, honoring veterans has been cited by President Trump and others as the principal reason for condemning those who fail to stand during the national anthem. And although I believe Trump and others overstate soldiers' need for reverence and underestimate the value those same soldiers place on the First Amendment right to dissent, it seems evident that his view is more popular than mine.
A great number of sports fans fervently demand communal display of patriotism before the opening faceoff or kickoff or pitch. That the display is natural and unforced is preferred. But if necessary, it should be compelled. For them, the nexus between the sports and patriotism is unquestioned. And according to Trump, the failure to adhere to this norm during the national anthem "disrespects" those who served the country in uniform.
It is noteworthy, therefore, that of the 80 words in first verse of the Star Spangled Banner which we regularly sing (there are four total verses), only one word directly "respects" or "honors" those who served, the final word in the final line: "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Of course, every Blues home game starts with the national anthem. Yet despite Charles Glenn's powerful renditions which are always faithful to Francis Scott Key's lyrics, inevitably a vocal majority of fans drown out Glenn, replacing "home of the brave" with "home of the Blues." And to be fair Blues fans are not the only ones to do this (e.g., "home of the Chiefs," etc.)
Using Trump's respect-disrespect standard and looking at these facts dispassionately, one must concede that NFL players who wordlessly kneel and in their silence do not interrupt those who wish to sing the anthem as written are more respectful to veterans than the hockey fans who replace the only word that honors them with "Blues."
Unfortunately, this harsh assessment begs the question how to square the loud condemnation of NFL players with lack of censure against offending Blues fans without resorting to some malevolent explanation such as racism or, at a minimum, racist-tinged hypocrisy.
Of course, the U.S.Constitution ? which those who served have defended ? gives Blues fans the right to change the lyrics of the national anthem. It gives NFL players the right to kneel while others sing it. It also gives people the right to be racist or hypocritical, and the right to call out those who are.
Grant Doty served 24 years in the U.S. Army and returned "home" to St. Louis with his family when he retired in 2008. He is now a civil rights attorney.