Oh Say, Can't You See Him?

Sports and patriotic gestures go together like mom, apple pie and the flag, right?

Well, one reporter is causing controversy by pointing out that NBA star, Brandon Roy, who plays for the Portland Blazers, morphs into the invisible man when the national anthem is sung.

Writes John Canzano in the Oregonian, "For two seasons now, Roy leaves the court before 'The Star Spangled Banner' is performed. He waits out of sight, in the arena tunnel, and has a quiet moment of prayer while his teammates stand and honor America together."

I've been to my fair share of athletic contests, as you probably have, where this long-standing American ritual - the singing of the national anthem - takes place. With few exceptions, most people eagerly stand, place their hands on their chests, and look at the flag in the gym/stadium/field. Even when the words to the song are comically mangled by the performer, folks remain respectful.

So, Roy's decision to not stand with his teammates is atypical, as is his explanation. Typically, the arguments against participating in the national anthem and/or not pledging allegiance to Old Glory are the following:

1) the libertarian one which views these gestures as coerced patriotism and eschews the mixing of sport and state;

2) the religious one which approves of pledging allegiance to God or a god, not to a country;

3) the anti-military one where the the flag is seen as a "symbol of oppression."

As we become an increasingly balkanized nation and we struggle to find common ground, these collective patriotic gestures become even more meaningful, less rote, to some. Myself included.

However, this line from the Oregonian article left me cold: "... I worry that the statement he's (Brandon Roy) making is one of individualism."

Reporter Canzano, that is the epitome of Soviet-style thinking.

Oh say, let Trail Blazer Roy have his moment of peace in peace.

Update: Wrote a longer piece - newsfeed/commentary - on this issue. Now that I learned the NBA has specific rules of conduct, regarding the anthem, I tweaked my opinion. Here it is.


Dekko said...

A year ago when Canzano was promoting Roy to the All-Star game he wrote, after telling how hard it is to get a private moment:

"So yeah. Roy retreats to the tunnel before games. He bows his head. He listens to the anthem. And Roy said: "I say a little prayer and have a little time to myself." And maybe that doesn't strike you as a team leader thinking team, and being part of a team, but his teammates don't mind.

He's always there for his team when the lights go up, isn't he?"

Anonymous said...

If you are going to participate in something, you have to follow the rules. What if he decided he wanted to wear a uniform of a different color because he wanted to be an individual? Or use a different rulebook in his play?

Not standing there for the national anthem is a political statement - nothing more or less - and I think that fans should make an equal statement by demanding he not be permitted to play.

LarryK4 said...

Only in America can a black kid grow up to make millions of dollars placing a round ball through a narrow net...Or--better yet-- become President of the greatest nation on earth.

Roy should remember he is a role model, and as such he should act like it.

His admission that he "he'll stop doing it if it bothers enough people," reminds me of a politician floating a trial balloon or running an idea up the flagpole to see who salutes.

Note to Mr. Roy: it bothers me.

Hap said...

What rule says you have to stand in line with his teammates? Is it an NBA rule? Doubtful, otherwise the league would've done something about it 2 years go when he started.

Is it the same as wearing a different color uniform? Nope.

I think people who say "a black kid who grew up" or that he's a "role" model, are missing the bigger point here. He has the right to do it, or not do it. Just as I have the right not to participate in it, or say the pledge of allegiance.

We're a free country you know.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah we are.

And because of the First Amendment you, and he, and little 8-year-old daughter do not have to participate in the "Pledge of Allegiance."

But because of the "blood of patriots" by kids HIS age (Black, White, Hispanic, Women and gasp, even Gay) serving in the US military, he has that right.

Sometimes you suck up to show respect. Nothing wrong with that!

Anonymous said...

They sing the anthem before my college games...we are instructed to stand a certain way and show respect.. IF someone does not wish to participate it would depend on his reasons I suppose.. I don't mind hearing it, and if it wasn't for those events, i'm not sure many people would even know the anthem. If you want to enjoy it in another way that is fine.. if you hate American and don't want to listen well..that would bother me but oh well.

Nicholas Stix said...

Yes, Hap, it is an NBA rule. He doesn’t enjoy First Amendment rights in the NBA, which is a private employer. First Amendment rights apply to public property, public employers, and put limitations on the power of the state.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf/Chris Jackson was an anti-American black basketball star who converted to Islam early in his NBA career. He disrespected the National Anthem, by refusing to stand for it, and was suspended. He claimed that he had religious objections to standing for the anthem, but he was lying, unless he meant that to be a Moslem is to be a traitor to America.

After his suspension, he agreed to stand during the anthem, while looking down and silently or quietly reciting a Moslem prayer, probably something about killing infidels.

To LarryK4, Roy is well aware that he is a role model, just as Jackson/Rauf was. Such individuals seek to spread racist disrespect for America, her traditions, and her laws among youngsters. And they’ve been quite successful.

TCC said...

Nicholas, Can you be more specific about this NBA rule that requires Roy to stand with his team for the anthem? According to the Oregonian article: "McMillan (Blazers' coach) pointed out that the league doesn't have a provision in player's contracts that requires players to stand on the court during the anthem."

Larry, It'd be nice if these basketball players acted like role models, but given the disheveled moral lives many of them lead, they're not. Folks may look up to them and some of them may use their celebrity for good, but, in reality, they're just entertainers.

Nicholas Stix said...

“‘The N.B.A.’s rule on this point is very clear and all our rules apply equally to all players.’

“At issue is a one-sentence clause in the league’s rule book that states, ‘Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.’

“The position of the league is that there is a standard clause in player contracts that stipulates a player must agree to abide by N.B.A. rules.”

“PRO BASKETBALL;Abdul-Rauf Vows Not to Back Down from N.B.A.,” by Jason Diamos, March 14, 1996, New York Times.

TCC said...

Nick, yes, that was in the 1996 article, so I wasn't certain that was still the case. I checked the 2009-10 rule book for the NBA
and that rule is still in there!

Now that I am aware of that, I think B-Roy should honor the rules of the organization he's voluntarily affiliated himself with.

Perhaps he will clarify his position with all the publicity this has generated.

Thanks to all who commented (so far).