What constitutes winning in football, basketball, baseball, soccer? It used to be so simple. The team with the highest score wins and the player with the most points in a game get the trophy.

A sports stadium has always been a place to yell and chant and give vent to those  emotions less likely to show up at work or even at home.

When did it change? When did sports become a navigation point for controversy, for the deepening of a national dialogue?

Some blame social media, other blame team owners or their marketing folks or those in government.

I say the world is in an accelerated time of change and we need to start asking ourselves better questions or we'll repeat the pattern of divisiveness that's happening in football today.

It's bigger than a game or a series of games, it's bigger than specific individuals, although they set the spark that has become a flame.

It's about Speak Up or Shut Up.

It's about those who are seen as rebels with a cause and others who are rebels without a cause.

My first question as I watched the sports conflict brewing was, "How did 'The Star-Spangled Banner' become an integral part  every sporting game in the U.S.? If you don't know, here's the answer.

It was played at an opening baseball game in Brooklyn in May 1862. That's how old the ties are to sports. Then in 1918, it was played for the first game of the World Series, in Comiskey Park, where the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs were the rivals.

A military band played during the seventh inning stretch. It changed the mood of a very war weary crowd struggling with the huge cost of losing over 100,000 lives in World War I. Spirits were uplifted and a huge roar of approval came from fans and players alike,.

The song, after much debate, was officially adopted as the national anthem by congressional resolution in 1931 and sporting events were now seen as patriotic rather than expendable entertainment.

This one song elicits great emotion. The Flag Code states you are to stand when the song is played and place your right hand over your heart.

However, as Mark Clague, University of Michigan musicology professor says, you can't force individuals to love a song or a reason for the song. He states, "The role of these symbols (song, flag, constitution) is to help us live in the present to deal with the challenges of our times"

It's only a song, right?

Enter Colin Kaepernick, a talented quarterback with a complex legacy. And his narrative adds to the importance of looking beyond right and wrong, good and bad, and, yes, black and white.

Kaepernick's birth mother is white and his father is African American. His mother gave her son up for adoption to a white family who have two children and lost two infants to heart defects.

Kaepernick, adopted, biracial, talented, and complex, decided to stand up by sitting down   when he was the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in 2016. In the preseason, he sat and it went unnoticed at first. Then he switched to kneeling on one knee during the national anthem.

My question: What was your reaction when you saw or heard about his action? Were you angry, disappointed, relieved, proud?

Now, think about your work day. How do you show up when there is dissonance at work? Do you speak out or stay in silence? Do you avoid issues around gender, race, religion, ageism?

What Kaepernick is expressing is what our national dialogue is about. GQ recently named him its Citizen of the Year. The definition of citizen is "someone who is entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman (woman)."

All of this brought to mind my daughter, Mikayla Lev, when she was teaching an after-school arts class in Oakland, California. The group of mostly black and Latino teens had written songs and were standing at the Bart station singing. A policeman asked for their permit and Mikayla said they had none. They were told to stop. She asked if they could do one more song to be videoed before they left. They broke into a rousing song with the words "Those who are silent are guilty too."

That man on duty came over and said quietly, stay and sing. We need peace tools not pistols.

Where do you stand up, sit down, speak ou,t or stay silent?

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Published on: Nov 16, 2017
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