09.18.08

Standing Up & Saluting…Josh Howard

Posted in Basketball, Blogged Down, Free Expression, politics at 5:40 pm by

Thankfully, Crashburn Alley isn’t the only destination in the sporting blogosphere with a somewhat reasoned take on Josh Howard’s decision to blow off the national anthem during a flag football game.  “Josh Howard is a public relations disaster. I concede that,” writes Joey from Straight Banging. “But he did something I do all the time: he failed to engage in the largely mindless and generally worthless pre-sports incantation of the national anthem.”

I don’t see how Howard’s non-participation is any different from instances when people like me go to a basketball game and remain seated while complaining about some of the United States’ appalling missteps. It’s called free speech. Exercising it is among the most American activities possible. Reciting the anthem before a game is a synthetic sign of national pride and solidarity, so if the concept of “America” is going to be shoved in people’s faces, those who would have the anthem sung can’t then get upset when others, upon considering the United States, realize that it may not be worthy of reflexive adulation and support.

Second, there’s a lot wrong with the United States. For example, it’s a racist country. And, sickly, plenty of people are fine with it. That’s how you get a leading presidential candidate who feels comfortable releasing racist ads. That’s how you get a population that will countenance spending billions of dollars a month to rebuild some other country that we recklessly and needlessly invaded but won’t summon the political will to pay teachers more money or take any other meaningful steps to address the societal failings that trap poor people in deadend lives. And, of course, a disproportionate number of those affected by our collective malaise and contempt for the poor are black. Just as I sit here concerned about aspects of our country but no less appreciative that the U.S. provides me with the right to voice this dissent, so, too, could someone like Josh Howard work his way through the system and come out a millionaire without relenquishing the understanding that for most poor blacks, that’s a foreclosed possibility. What’s unamerican about speaking that truth? What’s disrespectful about being real?

5 Responses to “Standing Up & Saluting…Josh Howard”

  1. WeWanttheFunk says:

    Thank the deity for this glimmer of common sense. It’s small, but I feel justified in my optimism that it will breed.

    Once upon a time in elementary school, a classmate of mine was sent to the principal’s office for not standing and singing Oh Canada. The principal exercised a comical lack of reason by telephoning the boy’s mother – where exactly did he think the kid got the idea to value free expression over mindless patriotism in the first place?

    If I’m not mistaken, there was a time when one who chose not to participate in prayer ended up on the same receiving end as Josh Howard and my friend from elementary school. Maybe this, too, will pass.

  2. Ben Schwartz says:

    I’ve seen people not stand up for the Anthem at Dodger and Giants games. Not often, but it was one white guy and one Latina, both of whom couldn’t care less, and nobody said anything to them. One was a friend of mine who usually uses the Anthem to get a hot dog or a beer.

    Patriotism is easiest to express in front of a crowd about to watch a ballgame. When it comes to asking people to pay taxes, manage a giant ass investment bank responsibly, or telling the truth during a campaign for the Presidency — well, why are you asking? Do you hate America or something?

  3. pcanon says:

    you are correct it is free speech but so is the fans right and the medias right to crucify him for it. free speech is not a free pass, there are repercussions for your words… particularly if you make your money in a public fashion such as professional sports.

  4. GC says:

    justifying crucificixion for what seems to have been an off-the-cuff goof, however ill-advised, seems way over the top. Josh Howard is not much of a threat to democracy or the American way of life. his right to say something dopey / inarticulate in public is as worthy of free speech protection as anyone else’s.

  5. Ben Schwartz says:

    That’s the thing — Josh Howard may very well have his ability to make a living as a public figure dented by this, and really, who cares one way or the other?

    The problem is, it’s viral video moments like this that people give a damn about, or “lipstick on a pig” comments, or flag burning amendments to the Constitution. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the credit bailout, three-front war (if you now count Pakistan), and global warming are occupying the news media, sparing us a Josh Howard appearance in front of the Senate for another sports hearing.

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