This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A sporadic trend started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick of not standing for the national anthem before games in protest has trickled to a smattering of players around the NFL. According to recent comments by Oklahoma City guard Victor Oladipo, it's natural to expect some NBA players to join in, too.
Which raises the question: How would you react if a Jazz player chose to kneel during the anthem?
Oladipo was asked by Complex Sports if such protests will rear up in the NBA. He said: "Oh, no question. I truly believe it will. Because at the end of the day it's a sport, and people are gonna be looking at some guys in the NBA to see what they're gonna do, as well. At the end of the day you just control what you can control, so your opinion is your opinion, that's the beauty of the United States, so, do whatever you feel is best that will help you do whatever you believe."
He added: "Whatever you believe, believe in to the utmost. But I think, definitely, we'll see a few guys in the NBA doing the same thing."
So, if a Jazz player decides to demonstrate his beliefs regarding social injustices or anything else he deems important in the United States, by choosing not to stand to "honor America," what happens next?
In a place such as Salt Lake City, the action-reaction would be fascinating and compelling to watch.
Kaepernick has generated all kinds of responses, including anger from those who think his gesture is disgusting, ungrateful and unpatriotic, to supporters who believe his actions call attention to a significant issue the sometimes unjust treatment of African-Americans by police in this country that needs correcting.
One of the difficulties in any reaction, pro or con, is that nothing is absolute here. The United States has its flaws. There are stupid acts perpetrated by people of authority in this nation, including, in some cases, horrible mistakes made by police officers. Conversely, there are many police officers who are heroes, who do their jobs admirably, who risk their lives and, at times, lose them in the dangerous process of keeping citizens and communities safe. There are servicemen and women protecting U.S. values and interests every day, putting themselves in harm's way for the benefit of people they don't personally know, people who they know only as Americans.
When a symbol such as The Star-Spangled Banner, cherished and revered by so many, is then disrespected, or seen to be disrespected, by a player's gesture, as some view Kaepernick's protest as being, it's a blow to their own beliefs. And they react negatively.
It has been pointed out many times before that the flag represents and stands for the freedom that allows Kaepernick, or any other player or person, to express his love for or unhappiness with whatever is happening in and around the country.
So, how do you respond? How would you react if that protest comes home to Vivint Arena, demonstrated not just by a player on an opposing team, rather by a player for whom you normally cheer on a team for which you always cheer?
I do not know the answer to the question. I am grateful, though, that we live in a country the same country, distressing parts of which are being protested against here where Kaepernick and others, including any Jazz player, can peacefully act out what's on his mind, even if it's not something others would do, without getting hauled off by authorities for that dissent.
Remember in 1996 when Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem before games and the controversy it caused? He cited his religious beliefs, calling the flag a "symbol of oppression, of tyranny."
He also said: "My beliefs are more important to me than anything. If I have to, I'll give up basketball. … I don't criticize those who stand, so don't criticize me for sitting. I won't waver from my decision."
Maybe he didn't waver, but after the NBA suspended him without pay, he did compromise, agreeing to stand, but close his eyes and recite a silent prayer.
To each his own. There's room for varying thoughts, beliefs, positions, stances in this big, wide, free land, even here in Utah.
God bless America, then, even maybe especially when some of its citizens, including sports figures who make more money in one quarter of one game than some make in a year, have a problem with, a legitimate, worthy concern about some of the dishonorable things that happen within it.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.