You know the drill. The music cranks up, you shake off the rust from your joints and you climb to your feet.
What if you don’t, though?
Recently that happened before an American football game. The San Francisco 49ers played the Green Bay Packers in a pre-season clash and the San Francisco quarter-back, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” Kaepernick said after the game.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
A couple of points. First, Kaepernick’s protest would have passed unnoticed if it hadn’t been for an alert reporter, who clocked what the player did and asked him about it. Keep your existentialist queries about whether a protest is a protest if nobody notices or not - that’s somebody doing their job properly, right there.
Second, the substantive point. Kaepernick’s strong comments have provoked the reaction one might expect. Fans burning his jersey, fans buying it in support. Rent-a-mouths criticising him, rent-a-mouths supporting him.
What interests this observer is the likely reaction if someone did that before the All-Ireland football final, or one of the autumn rugby internationals, or one of the soccer qualifiers.
Actually, we’ll walk that back a bit: who would be the most likely player to act like that in the first place? If you are struggling to think of one then that’s probably its own commentary on the standard of awareness among contemporary elite players, or maybe our awareness of their awareness, which is much the same thing.
The subjects broached with and by these sportspeople tend to run along predictable lines: last opponents, next opponents, teammates. The need to be focused. The respect for the opposition. To produce a performance and let the result mind itself.
To shake things up and pass for depth, a box set which flickered across the retina six months beforehand may be mentioned. Brexit? Apple? Homelessness? Irish Water? Whether freedom includes the freedom to protest? Come on.
In the States the Kaepernick protest is spreading. One of his 49ers teammates, Eric Reid, has also refused to stand for the anthem, and so has the Denver Broncos’ Brandon Marshall and Seattle Seahawk Jeremy Lane. Megan Rapinoe, who plays soccer for Seattle Reign, has joined them.
In Rapinoe’s case, interestingly, her latest opponents, the Washington Spirit, played the anthem while she and her teammates were still in the dressing-room. But when the owner of the Spirit attacked Rapinoe’s stance, or kneel, the Spirit players issued a statement supporting her.
This one may run and run.
Support murder victim’s fund
Regarding the piece on Colin Kaepernick and protests to raise consciousness about issues, you could watch the recent TV documentary about homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry.
Or you could consider the case of Trevor O’Neill.
O’Neill was shot dead in front of his family on August 17 in Majorca, an innocent victim of the gangland feud in Dublin. He worked as a drainage inspector with Dublin City Council but because he was not officially married to his partner, Suzanne, she has no automatic entitlement to his pension.
Dublin City Council is reviewing this matter, but give his colleagues their due, they are not waiting on Irish bureaucracy to confound a reputation based on decades of inertia. They have set up the Trevor O’Neill Memorial Fund with trustees including Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, colleagues from Dublin City Council and the IMPACT Trade Union, to support his family.
If a Dublin or Mayo player were to sit or kneel for the anthem next Sunday as a protest, here’s one observer who’d applaud. The state bends over backwards to facilitate failed banks, charity bosses, bloated developers, disgraced politicians — spivs and gombeens of every stripe — usually on the hilarious excuse of ‘legal advice’.
Yet when the family of an innocent man is left in limbo for a modest pension there’s no urgency. No hurry.
Donations can be made by to Dubco Credit Union at 2, Little Green Street, Dublin 7, by debit or credit card on 01-8870400, or by ebanking to the Dubco Credit Union Account (IBAN Number: IE69DUCU99101010608669 (BIC Code: DUCUIE21).
Serious worries about novel Premier focus
Ah here, what’s this? Tipperary players and management talking about next year and focus and putting a few together and all this . . . sensible stuff?
This will not stand, man. Every other hurling county knows that what you need to rely on from Tipperary is a complete loss of perspective, titanic over-hyping, celebrations on a scale to make strong men weep.
Not this terrible sin of perspective. That just won’t do at all.
The gold standard in this respect was set a few years ago by the Dublin football manager, who pointed out, literally minutes after the Dubs had just won an All-Ireland title, that they were actually lagging behind teams which were at that time preparing for the following year’s championship . . . then it was pointed out that this was tantamount to saying that winning the All-Ireland title was a bad move when it came to winning the following season.
This new-found common sense and general groundedness is a dangerous precedent, one every non-Premier fan will hope is a passing phase.
Read it and leap: When le Carre met Arafat
Try as I might I can’t quite dig up a sports angle, but John le Carre has written a memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from my Life, and you need to read it.
Why? Researching The Little Drummer Girl, le Carre met Yasser Arafat, who “was wearing a silver-coloured pistol and a perfectly pressed uniform.
The stubble on his cheeks, as they entered the traditional embrace, was silky, not prickly.” Observation, precision, exactitude. What else do you want?
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