Editorial: Why I Will Sit for the National Anthem on Saturday

09 Sep 2016 2:07 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)

by Scott Jeffries

The following is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Timbers Army or the 107ist Board of Directors.

We have all heard endlessly about the Colin Kaepernick situation. Everyone has an opinion and there are no hot takes left to give. I’m not here to talk about Colin Kaepernick, or to say what I think about Colin Kaepernick, or to hear what you think about Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick.

I am here, however, to talk about what Colin Kaepernick is talking about, which is that, well, I’ll justquote him: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” This is an issue that has been raised time and time again, but this time it was done by a polarizing public figure in a provocative way and so now everyone would rather debate about the person taking the action rather than the statement he was making. This week, Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch decided to play the national anthem before the teams had entered the field, to prevent Seattle Reign and U.S. National Team star Megan Rapinoe from engaging in the same protest.

As a show of solidarity for the cause they are supporting, I intend to sit for the National Anthem in the Timbers Army on Saturday. I am not protesting the anthem specifically, but this is the form that their protest has taken and so this is how I too will protest. I protest not only the unequal treatment of African Americans in this country but also the attempts to marginalize the voices of those drawing attention to it. If critics of Kaepernick and Rapinoe truly supported freedom, they would support the right to silent protest. If they truly do not see the inequality in our society, they are either blissfully sheltered or willfully ignorant.

As a white person, I can never fully grasp the struggles black Americans face, but I can understand history and see its effects. Slavery begat Jim Crow which begat redlining which begat white flight which begat gentrification. African Americans face higher unemployment, lower educational attainment, and live in more segregated neighborhoods with higher crime rates. They make lower incomes, accumulate less wealth, and buy fewer homes, which multiplies across generations. The wealth gap is widening to the point where it would take the average black family 228 years to accumulate the same wealth as the average white family today. Schools are rapidly resegregating to levels not seen since the Civil Rights era. The Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act which unleashed a flood of new restrictions targeting low-income, minority voters, only the most blatantly racist of which were struck down.

And, of course, the main reason that Kaepernick is protesting, and the reason that many more before him have been protesting, is the unequal treatment of black people by law enforcement. It is a fact thatblack people are more likely than white people to be arrested and subjected to physical force for the same crimes. Black people are more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs than white people, despite the fact that white people do both of these things at the same rate or more. Mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strike laws, and race-based drug enforcement create a cycle where a black person is more likely to go to prison, which impacts their ability to find legitimate work when they get out, which in turn makes it more likely that they will return to prison. It tears families apart, traps communities in poverty, and reinforces the bias that law enforcement has against black people. And it is impossible to ignore the steady flow of shootings and deaths of black men by police in situations where a white person surely would have walked away alive, if they had even been stopped in the first place. If you’re wondering why this might have started with a 49ers player, google “SFPD racist texts”.

I can’t help but note that we live in an incredibly white city and are an incredibly white fan base. Portland’s past and present is a discussion for another time, but we cannot let ourselves be complacent in our little bubble of whiteness, full of good intentions but no action, shielded from the real injustice in the world, even the real injustice in our city as we increasingly take over Albina-Mississippi and push our racist legacy to 82nd Avenue and beyond, out of sight and out of mind. I am surprised by how many young Portlanders don’t even know what Albina means, beyond the name of a street. If you want a sobering history of racism in Portland, read Bleeding Albina. It might change the way you look at our city.

And so, in light of all of this, I will neither stand nor sing on Saturday. I will not judge those who do, or make assumptions about their motivations or beliefs, just as I would not want anyone to judge or assume anything about me because of the action I am taking. This is just one way to express something that many (hopefully all) of us feel, but it is not the only way, and it might not feel appropriate to some. I don’t do it to disrespect our country. I stand and sing loudly every game, then jubilantly toss the shreds of the program I’d so dutifully torn apart. Singing the national anthem at our MLS home opener is one of my favorite memories as a Timbers fan. This will be the first time I have not sung the anthem and it’s not a decision I make lightly. I am not anti-American, but I am also against blind worship, and we as Americans take far too much pride in ourselves to ever honestly assess our faults. I believe we can do better, but first we have to acknowledge that we need to.


  • 28 Sep 2016 2:16 PM | 107ist Admin (Administrator)
    Jon Zweiger says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 1:01 pm 
    Although I agree with your sentiment, I can not feel more strongly that this is not the proper time or place for it. The national anthem and our flag have been fought for freedom and justice for ALL by those that gave some and some that gave all before us and are currently serving. If everyone wanted to sit in the “X” minute of the match as a way of showing our support to put a stop to racism, I am 100% for it. Having the Army sit and be quiet for a minute would be way more powerful of a message in my opinion as well.

    jordan says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm 
    The values meant to be represented by our anthem and our flag are not, in fact, being applied to all, which is the point.

    john says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 3:26 pm 
    Freedom and justice for all… if you’re white.

    Matthew Brown says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 7:13 am 
    The thing about free speech is that you dictate when and how it’s exercised, it’s not very free. I get your point about effectiveness and perhaps another form sending a louder message, but if this is how someone wants to do their thing, then it’s their call.

    Troy says:
    Monday, September 26, 2016 at 11:36 am 
    The United States isn’t oppressing people, some A-holes who have broken the law then hide behind their badge are. And that is a very small percentage of one particular occupation. It’s painting with a very, very broad brush to say the country is oppressive. Also, you should love your country all of the time and love your government when they deserve it!

    Fao says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 1:36 pm 
    Thank you for writing this and saying what some of us are thinking.

    Scott Jeffries says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2:01 pm 
    Jon, I understand your reservations but those freedoms include the freedom to protest when the country is not living up to its ideals. Unfortunately, freedom and justice are not being granted equally to all and that is why we must protest. This is in no way intended to disrespect the military. Many veterans are supporting this form of protest; in fact, it seems to be almost universal from what I’ve seen.
    Protests work when they create a movement. Sitting or kneeling for the anthem is how this protest has taken form, so to show solidarity, we should protest in the same way.
    Dr. King said in his Letter From Birmingham Jail:
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White citizens’ “Councilor” or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action” who paternistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

    David K says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2:11 pm 
    I’ll be standing, thanks. Not that I don’t agree with the points Kaepernick and Rapinoe were making. And not that I’m any sort of super-patriot (far from it, actually: I’m a Cascadian secessionist and a socialist).
    But I can’t state strongly enough how sick and tired I am of the socio-political Cause of the Moment barging its way into everything. I don’t care about utterly symbolic gestures that do f*ck-all to actually advance the cause they’re being made to advance. Want to do something about systemic racism in America? Indulging in feel-good symbolism in front of a stadium in which 99% of the people in attendance probably feel the exact same way doesn’t do jack.
    Not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t give a damn about showing support for socio-political at a match. I’m there to watch soccer…and put the soul-crushing, rage-inducing futility of present-day American partisan politics and divisive infighting behind me for a couple of hours.

    JT says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2:52 pm 
    You have my support 100%.
    I question playing the national anthem at a non National team level sporting event ever. I think it dilutes the meaning of the song and honestly many (not all or most but many) people are not singing anyway. Does the shouting of “Timbers!” or “Thorns!” over the last line of “…the brave” really belong there either?
    I assume the majority of fans at the stadium will always stand because it seems polite and the PA announcer asks us to. One of the advantages a star athlete has is the press will ask “why did you do that” and they can say “racial justice” or “I’m gay and I understand Colin” etc. It is that conversation the kneeling triggers.
    We need that conversation.
    While I support this act of sitting, the 107th has supported inclusion before. Is there something that can be done visually (tifo?) that supports the cause and elevates it beyond the national anthem which is a dog whistle for one type of patriotism.
    I agree that the first ever MLS national anthem at Civic Stadium is one of the more powerful performances of the song. That speaks to the need for more collective and more proactive action.

    JT says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm 
    Is there a better description of playing the National Anthem at a sporting event than “utterly symbolic gesture” ?
    I took the family to a Portland Steel game (look it up) and they played it before that (admittedly fun) crazed night at the Rose Garden (how is that for protest? I’ll call that arena what I want to call it thank you Paul Allen!)
    I do think what we need to do is something in the City and with the backing of the team and Timbers Army / Riveters. Focus on inclusion, safety, justice, etc.

    EL says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 3:12 pm 
    Sorry, I believe in what you wrote, but I will be standing for the National Anthem, I will have one hand over my heart and the other holding a scarf. I will be singing loud (and probably out of tune) but I will be singing for all of those who gave all so we can have our freedoms today. If you want to protest, please go ahead, it’s your right, but please don’t stop me from mine. Yes some things need to change, but if you things to change go out and do something that will help the community, not just sit and complain about it or sit in solidarity, what will that do.
    Just my 2 cents.

    Janice Best says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 10:10 pm 
    The author was exceedingly clear – in fact, took pains to be so – that he was not judging others for not following him. Why on earth would you then plead for him to not try to stop you from doing what you were doing? Rubbish. Next time, read for comprehension.

    Janet Potter says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 3:15 pm 
    While I can see all sides of these prior comments, I do understand the need to voice one more opinion (just that – my opinion): I will take to my knee in support of all of my TA Family (Timbers and Riveters), as I have so many colors to my family and they are all equally important to this world and my life. I admire others rights and opinions, respecting your right to act as you see fit.
    The idea of a TIFO – well, maybe after the season has finished? I believe that the 107st, well we are far too diverse for this one to come to fruition at this time without some casualties.
    On that note – may the Timbers & Thorns bring home 3 points each and all of you have a great weekend!

    Lee says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 3:47 pm 
    To all who intend to sit or kneel, when will you find it acceptable to stand?

    JB says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:21 pm 
    Thank you for asking this. How is success measured with these protests? What needs to happen for Kap and Rapinoe to stop kneeling? There will always be oppression/prejudice between groups of human beings who perceive themselves as different. There could be specific milestones or barometers in place regarding law enforcement, i just haven’t heard anything articulated yet.

    TA says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 8:13 am 
    So in other words you and the other lemmings will kneel until you are told to stand? How about standing up and actually doing something that will result in actual change?

    JB says:
    Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm 
    Well now i’m confused. I want them to actually do something really meaningful and more than just symbolically kneeling. From my understanding, Kap is doing just that and also donating a ton of money to work towards his goals

    Sean Moran says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:11 pm 
    There’s seats?

    JB says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:18 pm 
    “but we cannot let ourselves be complacent in our little bubble of whiteness, full of good intentions but no action”
    I 100% agree with the basis of the protests, but i’m sorry, you honestly think sitting for 2 minutes amongst a crowd of 20,000 like-minded constitutes meaningful action? That is the physical equivalent of a #ThoughtsandPrayers tweet after a tragedy. It’s the illusion of action. What you’re actually doing is spending discretionary time and discretionary income attending a live sporting event for pleasure which is a privilege very few of the people you’re “protesting” for can ever experience.

    John says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:32 pm 
    I actually disagree with the playing of the anthem at all before a domestic sporting event. It’s really forced nationalism. They don’t do it in other countries. We should ask MLS to stop this dumb policy.

    Howard Bales says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:44 pm 
    Interestingly, according to the wikipedia, MLS and NHL require the anthem. MLB and NFL do not.

    Scott Jeffries says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm 
    Protests are a call to action. They are not mutually exclusive. One can protest at one time and take action at another. Protests draw attention to an issue which hopefully galvanizes a wider movement. I don’t know when I intend to stand. Obviously this isn’t going to be fixed overnight but I haven’t thought that far ahead. It’s just what I feel the need to do right now.. I am well aware of my privileges and hope to use them to impact change.

    Robert McFadden says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 6:38 pm 
    I’ll be sitting, too. I don’t yet know for how many matches, but I’m with Kapinoe.
    I started a similar (though less articulate) conversation at Stumptown Footy yesterday.http://www.stumptownfooty.com/2016/9/8/12851680/to-stand-sit-or-kneel

    Sara says:
    Friday, September 9, 2016 at 11:13 pm 
    As a product of the South who had a long standing lineage in the armed forces, I feel I’ve earned a say in this matter. It’s one nation, and that’s not how this nation is going. Change only come in unity. Why in 2016 are we still having these issues. I don’t expect much from “white” Portland, but we’ll see tomorrow.

    Sara says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:07 am 
    It’s really easy for “white” Portland (especially young non-child having TA members) to have so many opinions about this. I will be sitting for the change we need, this is 2016. I could not imagine having this discussion with my child if I wasn’t white and privileged. #blacklivesmatter
    -white girl born and breed in the south, long lineage of armed forces

    Sara says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 1:08 am 
    Sorry for the double post. I thought wifi world ate it and reposted.

    Ben Horton says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:27 am 
    Just curious. Are all traditions in global societies that do not meet safe space, and equality standards deemed void going forward? I suppose you could find ways to nitpick lots of things. Is there supposed to be a 2016 revision upon all national songs and traditions to ensure they are 100% modern age friendly?

    Sara says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:49 am 
    lol, do you mean like national anthem in the ’50s?

    Fao says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 1:45 am 
    Wow. I wholly understand and respect the perspective of people who disagree about whether or not the Anthem is an appropriate time to stage a protest. I get why some would see it as disrespectful, even though I disagree. But to say things like “what’s the point” or “do something else instead” is what is truly disappointing. Do you not see and comprehend the value of solidarity for its own sake? I hope someday when there is something important enough to you to take a stand- even if it’s purely personal/private and non-political, that you have others to stand beside you as you do so. The value of having the support of others cannot be understated, whether you agree with the cause or not.

    JonErik Soderberg says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 9:02 am 
    While I understand the sentiment expressed in your piece, I honestly feel this is a misguided way to support or advance a cause. Far too many men and women have given their lives to advance freedom and justice for all in this country. That sacrifice alone causes within me a demand that I respect, honor, and STAND for the values that this country and our anthem represents. Does it mean that every injustice, every inequity, every bigotry has been overcome? Of course not. We as a people are not perfect nor ever will be. But that does not mean we should not stand and honor the aspiration we hope and desire to become. I am proud to be an American citizen and I am proud of our flag and our constitution. And if I feel the need to truly protest and attempt to make things better….its not done by sitting on my backside and drawing attention to myself…but by standing up and putting my mouth, my money, my energy and my time into working for a solution.

    Commenter says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm 
    Do you want people to stop contributing to the 107? This is how you get people to stop contributing to 107. Enjoy that edge.

    JB says:
    Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm 
    Funny, this kind of thing is exactly why i never joined 107 in the first place. Even though i agree with 99% of their public political positions, I thought this was supposed to be a group committed to supporting their team. If a Timbers player was participating in this protest, then this piece might be warranted.

    boromict says:
    Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:30 pm 
    I heard about the Spirit nonsense before the Thorns game and sat through the anthem, for no reason other than to support people who stand, sit, wave scarves, change the lyrics, cut flips, sing, not sing, fart, not fart, drink beer, play tetris, piss, shit, drink a beer, eat a hot dog, salute veterans, kneel, or do any and everything else before, during, and after the national anthem.
    It doesn’t matter whether anyone supports anything by taking an action during the anthem, whether it’s symbolically supporting veterans by standing and singing or symbolically supporting protesters by kneeling or sitting or biologically emitting gas out their assholes. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a purpose or message behind what they do at all. No veteran of the United States armed forces, no American citizen, no ally or compatriot ever sacrificed anything in the name of America in order to force everyone at a bloody football game to stand a certain way in a certain place and sing a certain song. The people who sacrificed everything for freedoms sacrificed everything for freedoms. The best symbolic way to respect those people is by exercising the freedoms they sacrificed their lives, health, and sanity for.
    That doesn’t mean there won’t (or shouldn’t be) backlash or support for those actions, just as there’s always backlash and support for literally every action, because Americans don’t ever know how to shut the hell up about other people. But damn if it doesn’t piss me off when an American in a position of power, even if it’s a private form of power that they have the Constitutional right to exercise, uses their power to deny someone else the freedom to do or say something that causes no harm to another person, no matter how trivial it may be.
    So I’ll sit, not because of whether I support the message people are trying to send by sitting or kneeling, but as a giant red-white-and-blue middle finger to Bill Lynch and anyone else who considers a corporate position the equivalent of a crown, their company and property the equivalent of a monarchy. and their right to privately revoke a person’s freedom of expression as an act that respects veterans and their sacrifices. Even — especially — when that person is himself a veteran.

    JT says:
    Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm 
    I forgot to check and see if the world ended. Are we all ok?

    Matt Marlin says:
    Monday, September 19, 2016 at 5:34 am 
    Still here. (patiently awaiting giant meteor)
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