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Why I Stand

How the National Anthem Became a Part of Sports

In 1862, is the first documented time the National Anthem was played at a Brooklyn baseball game. Back then, there were no sound systems, compact discs, cassette tapes or even eight-tracks – you had to hire a band.

Hiring a band is expensive today and it was expensive then. As a result, playing the Anthem became reserved for only special occasions like opening day and holidays up until World War II (WWII).

Beginning with WWII, sound systems came into use, allowing management to play Anthem recordings. They started playing the Anthem before every game and the tradition was started.

This tradition spread into other sports including professional football.

In early September, 49er backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick took a knee before the playing of the national anthem.

His Why?

To take a stand in protest against police brutality and to show support for people of color who are being oppressed in the United States. It is an effort to use his voice and position as a NFL player to be catalyst of change for the people who are suffering and don’t have the same ability to create significant change.

Since then the protest has spread to other NFL teams, football teams at the college and high school levels and other professional sports including basketball and soccer. 

Initially, I didn’t understand Kaepernick’s behavior and I dismissed altogether as disrespectful and counterproductive. While I still disagree with his method it has in fact brought attention to his concerns. Unfortunately, for many I feel his message has become overshadowed by his method. 

A fellow veteran shared with me, we served to allow Kaepernick protest in the way he chooses without condemnation. While it speaks truth, it doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept. There has to be a less controversial way to get the nation’s attention, I just don’t know what it is.

While taking a knee isn’t a extreme form of protesting it’s still considered disrespectful and offensive by many – dare I say the majority of NFL viewers and attendees. He have chosen to walk off or move about the field when the Anthem starts to play.

He could even go so far as disrupt the Anthem by playing an African-American song of protest like,”We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Going to Come”, or “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

While the Anthem is playing Kaepernick takes a knee, he remains silent and respectful as during any moment of silence.

My Why?

I stand because I am the first generation American born of Panamanian immigrants. My parents came to America with nothing and built a life for my brother and I. The life my parents built and combined with the opportunities we were provided allowed my brother and I to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy.  

I stand out of respect for the military service by my father, father-in-law, uncle and brother. My father is a retired Air Force veteran having served in Vietnam.

My father-in-law, Chuck Brown (deceased) was a Marine Corps Sergeant Major. Sergeant Major is one of the highest Marine Corps enlisted ranks.

He received the Bronze Star with a Valor device and Purple Heart for his battlefield heroism during his two tours of duty in Vietnam. 

The Bronze Star is the third medal down in the hierarchy from Congressional Medal of Honor.  For his heroism, my father-in-law received a battlefield promotion.

My uncle, Cecil Belgrave (deceased), is also a Panamanian immigrant who served in the Army during WWI.

I stand in memory of and out of respect for George Boudreaux II, Theophilus Dismuke, Joe Dortch,  Gurnie Gunter, Phil Perry and Glenn Troster. Names of deceased Academy classmates whose names bring back rich memories of our experiences at the Blue Zoo.

I’m Thankful

I’m thankful for Kaepernick’s protest, it took his act to make me realize I had taken standing for our National Anthem for granted. It had become a mechanical response and nothing more whenever I heard, “Ladies and Gentlemen please stand…”

For me, the anthem had become a tolerated nuisance of sounds and not words  – a minor distraction before the event I really wanted to see. Kaepernick has restored My Why.

Now when I hear the words, “Ladies and Gentlemen please rise for our National Anthem” I quickly stand at attention with my cap over my heart and my eyes focused on the flag.

I remember the sacrifices of my family and friends who served before me and those who will serve after me.  When I think of the brave and selfless men and women I had the privilege of serving with tears now coming to my eyes.


I look forward to the day when Kaepernick and others can stand proudly when the anthem is played. That is what I want for this nation and I believe that is what every American should want.

The athletes stand not because of fan displeasure, threats or pressure from team owners but because the issues which started this protest have begun to be addressed and healing has begun.

I accept my American experience is not Kaepernick’s and Kaepernick’s American experience is not mine. For this reason, it’s important to focus on the Kaepernick’s Why.

Focusing on Kaepernick’s multi-million dollar salary, his diminishing playing skills, his failure to vote in the recent election, his white parents will only serve to distract you from the real issue – an apparent pattern of police brutality and oppression of people of color.

Let us commit to that day when we all can proudly stand when hear the national anthem by having a having a weekly conversation with someone who is different from us. By different, I mean of a different ethnicity, religion or lifestyle. The goal of the conversation is to build a understanding of how a person’s color, religion and lifestyle affects their American experience.

About The Author

Gerardo Campbell is a Nebraska native who now calls Silicon Valley, California home. In 1995, Gerardo married his wife Roberta aka the Pretty Lady and became the stepdad to her two children. In 2011, he started the website Support for Stepfathers to reverse the nearly 70% divorce rate for blended families in the United States. His website is to help and inspire stepfathers, aspiring stepfathers and the women who love them worldwide. You can follow Support for Stepdads on Twitter @support4stepdad and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/resourcesforstepfathers.



  1. I don’t want to hear a single word from Kaepernick. He had a perfect platform to teach people how to make positive change, by voting for those you think will make this a better country, regardless of party.

    • Hi Jim

      A lot of people feel the way you do. I agree his failure to vote reflects poorly on him being a catalyst for change. Sadly, his negligence will diminish the reason for his protest. Thank you for your Comment.


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