With national anthem stance, Giants manager Gabe Kapler is showing what real patriotism looks like | Opinion
“I am not okay with the state of this country," San Francisco's skipper wrote on Friday.
Gabe Kapler is not going to solve the gun crisis in America by refusing to stand on a baseball field during the national anthem. He knows that.
He’s not going to change the minds of millions of Americans who believe that their right to own an assault rifle supersedes the rights of the rest of us to live without fear of being randomly shot at a grocery store, a place of worship or a school. He knows that, too.
And a baseball manager is not going to make a dent in the broken governance of this country, where the incentive for too long has been wrapped up in the lie that there’s nothing we can do to stop mass shootings and needless death. At 46 years old, having seen the endless cycle of sadness, outrage and political paralysis that follows every one of these tragedies, Kapler knows that most of all.
But his decision to skip the national anthem as manager of the San Francisco Giants represents the most important thing he could do as a citizen: He’s being honest about what kind of country we live in. If the rest of us followed his example, we might actually have a chance to solve the biggest issues we face.
“I am not okay with the state of this country,” Kapler wrote in a blog post Friday. “I wish I hadn’t let my discomfort compromise my integrity.”
Kapler was explaining why he went through with the national anthem procedure as usual after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, afraid that his impulse to drop to a knee would call undue attention to himself or offend fans.
But ultimately, Kapler realized that the act of standing and singing along to our national anthem before a baseball game has become as rote as singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. Without the conviction and meaning behind it, it is a kind of forced patriotism that flies in the face of what America is supposed to represent in the first place.
And right now, in the wake of this horrible tragedy, Kapler is far from alone in his view that America has failed.
“I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents,” Kapler wrote. “We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the ‘shining city on the hill.’ But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings.
"We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes. We stand, we bow our heads, and the people in power leave on recess, celebrating their own patriotism at every turn.”
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There are many great things about this country, things that deserve to be acknowledged. But it’s not unreasonable to view our obsession with playing the national anthem at sporting events as a self-congratulatory pat on the back, which might be deserved at times but is completely inappropriate at others.
When it comes to gun violence, America is an outlier in the worst possible way. In many areas of this country, it’s easier to buy a gun than cold medicine. If you don’t think those two things are connected, ask yourself why so many other modern, wealthy nations with the same types of problems we have but stricter gun laws don’t have mass shootings like we do.
It’s not only appropriate to ask those questions and demand a more effective response from politicians, it’s our duty to point out when the government has come up short. Outside of the ability to vote, our choice to dissent at the playing of the national anthem in a public setting is arguably the most effective way possible to spark dissent and conversation.
Another sports figure, Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith, put out a statement Friday calling on politicians from both parties to work together and saying there’s “a lost art to compromise.”
But this isn’t about compromise. We have had politicians propose laws to increase background checks and make it harder to purchase guns. They have all been blocked by one political party.
It is not radical or extremist to think less of your country when 19 children and two teachers die at a small-town Texas school because there was neither the will of politicians or a mandate from the citizenry to pass laws that might have prevented it.
Kapler isn’t going to change the world if he skips the national anthem prior to a baseball game. But his patriotism being contingent on the government protecting its people shouldn’t be particularly controversial. If anything, it's an example the rest of us should follow.