As Sept. 11 and the first full day of the NFL season converge on Sunday, Arrowhead Stadium and others across the league will be draped in both the solemnity and celebration.
Amid all that, at the end of “The Star-Spangled Banner” here, thousands will exercise their First Amendment right to free expression by bellowing “home of the Chiefs” instead of “home of the brave.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s preseason protests and their momentum, many eyes doubtless will be scanning sidelines across the nation to see which players also are invoking the privilege that distinguishes the United States from many countries.
There is no real way to know if your regular programming at Arrowhead will be interrupted by Chiefs players sitting or taking a knee or otherwise joining in solidarity with Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback whose stance is in objection to oppression of African-Americans and against police brutality.
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But at least several Chiefs have been contemplating the implications of an infinitely thought-provoking topic for those willing to listen instead of just react. Those people can reconcile that sympathy to Kaepernick’s cause isn’t mutually exclusive to believing there are many wonderful police and that it’s tragic every time an officer dies serving us all — as we’ll be reminded of on Sunday at Arrowhead with the honoring of the late Detective Brad Lancaster and Capt. Robert Melton of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department as their families are on the field.
To say nothing of our precious military veterans, who Kaepernick has repeatedly stressed are not the object of his protest.
The possibilities for seeking common ground are illustrated on the illuminating Twitter timeline #veteransforkaepernick and in various constructive engagements Kaepernick has had with vets, including NFL free agent and former Green Beret Nate Boyer.
Like Kaepernick’s methods or not, and those awful pig socks he was wearing hurt his cause no matter how he explains them, he has done something substantial by provoking another tier of discussion.
“I salute Colin for what he’s doing; he’s standing up for a great cause,” second-year Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters said Friday.
After Peters said he’d leave it at that, he was asked if he felt the need to demonstrate sympathy with Kaepernick’s cause.
Peters didn’t say whether he would kneel or sit during the anthem.
Instead, he simply reiterated that he is “100 percent behind” Kaepernick and added that “what’s going on in law enforcement … does need to change” and that he doesn’t believe enough has come of Ferguson and other epicenters of racial conflicts.
Peters also took exception to any notion that Kaepernick was “disrespecting the flag.”
“He didn’t say (any) of that,” Peters said. “He spoke about something that he felt he needed to speak up about, and I salute him for that and I’m going to back him up.”
He’s hardly the only one.
Notwithstanding the knee-jerk fury against Kaepernick, despite the curious arguments that he shouldn’t speak out because he’s rich or not such a good football player any more or was brought up by white parents …
What’s prevailing is important further dialogue, plenty of support and at least some tangible good.
Kaepernick’s action has not only made for meaningful connections with veterans but has inspired others: to make his jersey the best-selling NFL gear in America right now; to make their own statements on other fields (see professional women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, when she’s not being muted) and to match his own pledge of $1 million to minority communities (as 49ers owner Jed York did on Thursday).
Chiefs’ linebacker Dee Ford sees all the good in what he called “a stand for something that’s right.”
But Ford, who said he would always “stand up for my culture,” also has a few layers of further thought on this — which is kind of what this is supposed to be all about.
“I don’t feel like I have to kneel now, because attention was brought to it by Kaepernick and a few other guys …,” he said. “I loved it, he took a stand for something. That’s not easy to do. But I don’t feel like now it should become a domino effect where now everybody’s taking a knee.”
After a pause, he added, “I don’t want to see this segregate the country … I have people of all races that I’m close to, and at the end of the day, I don’t want to create any separation. I don’t want to take a step backwards as a country.
“This is a great country, you know.”
Ford also made it a point to say that as proud as he is of his own identity and culture that he’s also about “the collective” world — and has had nothing but good experiences with police.
“Thank you,” he said. “You don’t want to overgeneralize” about any group.
For those who might reflexively downplay this cause with a “my country, right or wrong” mentality, maybe it’s worth considering the unabridged version of one of the roots of that expression as stated in 1872 by U.S. Sen. Carl Schurz of Missouri.
In a speech, the former Union Army General declared, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
That’s a little different, isn’t it?
Honoring that ideal is complicated and messy, but it’s ultimately a lot more to the heart of the matter than whether it’s acceptable to appropriate the national anthem to make a statement.
Because in the end it’s about striving to form a more perfect union, as suggested in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, and it’s in the “liberty and justice for all” of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Each of those was alluded to by Ford.
“Let’s live up to it,” he said.