On CNN, Bob Costas absolutely nailed it when discussing how we’ve conflated patriotism with the “military only” and “bumper sticker flag waving” when patriots exist all around us in school teachers, social workers, civil rights activists and even dissidents.
Watch or read his commentary below and let’s jumpstart this discussion. Patriotism belongs to all of us and that doesn’t mean for one second that we are disrespecting the military.
CNN Host: Let me ask you again about what a lot of the debate is about. You hear it from the president, his cabinet and I'm not sure about Steve Mnuchin. … The president went on TV this weekend and said this isn't about race. It's about respect for the military and first responders, and when you kneel you're disrespecting the military and first responders?
BOB COSTAS: Part of what's happened is that sports and patriotism and the flag have been conflated to such an extent that people can't separate out any nuance. If you go to see Hamilton, which is about the founding of the republic, no one said, wait a minute. Don't raise the curtain until we hear the national anthem. When you went to see Saving Private Ryan no one said “turn off the projector until we've had the national anthem.” It's in sports where this stuff happens.
Sometimes movingly, sometimes I submit cynically, because wrapping yourself in the flag and honoring the military is something which no one is going to object to. We all respect their sacrifice. We all honor their sacrifice, and yet what it has come to mean is that the flag is primarily and only about the military.
This is no disrespect to the military. It's a huge part of the narrative, but Martin Luther King was a patriot. Susan B. Anthony was a patriot. Dissidents are patriots. School teachers and social workers are patriots. And yet at Yankee stadium, if we can shift sports, not only play the national anthem before the game but "God bless America" at the seventh inning stretch 81 times a year at home games and say, “please rise as the Yankees honor a military guest.” I have no problem with that. I stand every time I'm in the ballpark no matter what it is, I stand. And certainly respect the military person they bring out there. But there is never a schoolteacher, or social worker. Patriotism comes in many forms, and what has happened is that it's been conflated with-- with kind of a bumper sticker kind of flag waving, and with the military only. So that people cannot see that in his own way, Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing and so, too, are some of these other players.
Meanwhile, Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A’s became the first Major League Baseball player to take a knee during the national anthem and he gave a thoughtful explanation for his own silent protest. It doesn’t have a single thing to do with disrespecting the military.