Les Carpenter: The Steelers, Seahawks and Titans all stayed in the locker room and skipped the anthem completely on Sunday. Will other teams follow suit?
Whether they knew it or not the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans were following a plan drawn by college basketballs greatest coach when they refused to come onto the field for the national anthem on Sunday. Nearly 50 years ago, John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, winner of 10 national championships, kept his teams in the locker room during the anthem to support his players stands against racial intolerance.
Wooden, who died in 2010 at the age of 99, was beloved in the sports world heralded as a brilliant teacher. His pyramid of success, built on the concepts of faith and patience, used concepts like poise, self-control, friendship, loyalty and cooperation to build greatness. His methods are still taught in corporate America. No one would accuse the genius Wooden of showing disrespect to the flag as President Donald Trump has done to NFL players who also refused to stand for the national anthem.
But long before Colin Kaepernick, Woodens UCLA Bruins had a player who would not stand for the anthem. His name was Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then college basketballs best player and later a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player, he converted to Islam before his senior season and began sitting during the anthem much like Kaepernick has done to protest the treatment of African Americans in the US. Mindful of Abdul-Jabbars stand, Wooden stopped bringing the Bruins on the court for the anthem. Its something he continued for years after Abdul-Jabbar left for the NBA.
We were aware of (the anthem author) Francis Scott Key being racist, Marques Johnson, a UCLA star in the mid-1970s told the Guardian last year in describing Woodens decision to keep them off the court. We knew about the missing third stanza that criticizes the slaves who joined the British Army so they could be free. I think we were aware of all that.
If the great Wooden could continue winning national titles while holding his players away from the anthem whats to keep NFL teams from not doing the same?
On Sunday, two days after Trump said in an address: Wouldnt you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag say, Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll responded with a statement of his own.
We stand for love and justice and civility, Carroll said. We stand for our players and their constitutional rights, just as we stand for equality for all people.
When neither the Seahawks nor the Titans came onto the field for their game eventually won by Tennessee it made for a surreal sight. The stands were filled, a color guard stood at the 30-yard line but the sidelines, normally loaded with players and coaches, were empty. In some ways, it was a more effective protest than those conducted by other teams whose players linked arms with coaches, and in some cases, the club owners.