The recently completed NFL season was marred, in the opinion of many, by players taking a knee during the National Anthem. To what extent has this gesture, or similar shows of protest, spilled over to other sporting events at which the Anthem is played?
The answer, as far as I can tell, is that it hasn’t spilled over at all. The playing of the Anthem was observed immaculately at the baseball games I attended (major and minor league) last year.
I haven’t been to an NBA game this season. However, I’ve heard nothing about kneeling or other forms of disrespect in this setting.
NBA rules require players “to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.” To my knowledge, the rule has been followed without exception. NBA players inclined to make political statements apparently agree with Lebron James. He says, “My voice and what I do in my community is more powerful than getting on a knee.”
I’ve been to about half a dozen basketball games at the college or high school level this season. Player behavior during the playing of the Anthem hasn’t changed from previous seasons. Everyone stands.
Last night and on Sunday, I attended the playoff games of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) basketball tournament.* The WCAC is one of the nation’s premier high school basketball leagues (and don’t say “one of” in the presence of any D.C. area basketball junkie).
American University’s Bender Arena was packed for the championship game Monday night. More than 5,000 spectators crammed into the gym.
The crowd was about half white and half black. Naturally, many students were present.
I watched the crowd carefully during the playing of the Anthem. I saw no one sitting or kneeling — no players and no one in the crowd. Everyone was standing respectfully. Some students were a bit rowdy, but not while the Anthem was played.
Many in the crowd stood well in advance of the song, while the announcer was reading the league’s sportsmanship code. I may have been the only person in the gym even thinking about the issue of kneeling.
I don’t know what next NFL season will bring. However, it seems clear that National Anthem protests have not become “a thing.” The rot isn’t spreading, at least not on that front.
* DeMatha won the WCAC boys championship over defending champs Gonzaga by a score of 54-53. DeMatha dominated the WCAC for decades under its legendary coach Morgan Wooten. However, this was the Stags first championship since 2011.
To reach the finals, DeMatha defeated Archbishop O’Connell, which is coached by Wooten’s son Joe. Gonzaga upset Paul VI in the other semifinal. Paul VI was ranked #4 in the nation coming into the tournament (DeMatha was #17).
According to the Washington Post, the championship game featured “as many as 13 future Division I players.” Among them were three 10th graders who are considered among the top 60 sophomores in the country. Paul VI also has a sophomore rated in the top 60.
UPDATE: A reader informs me that Bruce Maxwell, a rookie catcher for Oakland, knelt during the playing of the Anthem last September. However, Maxwell has announced that he won’t continue the practice this season.