In Final Weekend Before NFL Meeting, Will Redskins Return to Kneeling?

Daniel P. Cortez (left) sings the national anthem. 

Wyn Delano
WMAL.com

 

WASHINGTON (WMAL) — With NFL owners and players formally meeting next week to codify their policy on standing for the national anthem, this weekend could potentially be the last time players can kneel without repercussion in the league.

At least that’s the hope of local retired Marine Daniel P. Cortez, who is scheduled to sing the Anthem at Fed Ex Field next month.

“Its about a financial return. They need to come to an understanding or the fanbase is gonna say,’we’re going to walk away,’ ” Cortez told WMAL.

Yet, this weekend may mark a return to the protest for the Redskins, who face the perennially kneeling San Francisco 49ers whose former Quarterback Colin Kapernick began the trend on September 1st, 2016.

Kapernick had previously sat during the National Anthem in protest over police brutality towards African-Americans in the U.S, but had been convinced by former Seahawks player Nate Boyer that kneeling would be a more respectful middle ground.

The controversy between the free speech protest rights of Kapernick and the perception that he was disrespecting veterans mostly laid dormant until President Donald Trump weighed in during a September 22nd rally for Luther Strange in Alabama.

He said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”

The next day on Twitter, the President doubled down:

 

 

 

Many Redskins (as well as others from around the league) then joined in the Kapernick’s kneeling protest, including Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Brian Quick, Niles Paul, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter.

The next week, however, saw the now-infamous deadly shooting in Las Vegas which rocked the country. All of the Washington players stood for the anthem that week, with their arms linked.

Yet the controversy did not go away during the subsequent bye week for the Redskins, with Vice President Mike Pence walking out of a Colts / 49ers game in a move that was widely panned as a planned political maneuver.

Now, with the 49ers traveling to to Fed Ex Field and the Vegas massacre in the past, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Washington’s team will return to its protest.

Cortez, who also is a Vietnam veteran wounded in the war, has confidence that they will not:

“I expect to see the Redskins stand with their hands over their heart – they have the leadership. I think the coaches have got them well prepared to take on the 49erss and defeat the 49ers,” Cortez said.

“The 49ers have chosen to kneel – that’s their right. But they’ve angered our fanbase; we have a very patriotic fanbase. And if the 49ers kneel they probably will be booed,” he added.

While its clear that Cortez has a strong opinion on the anthem controversy, not every anthem vocalist feels the same way.

Slightly north of D.C. in Baltimore, anthem singer Joey Odoms stepped down from his 3-year tenure in the role as a response to his disappointment in NFL fans that espouse many of the positions that Cortez does.

Yet, in the midst of the swirling chaos of what the protests now stand for, free speech versus respect for service, and a myriad other head-splitting divisions – it seems possible that the two sides may be closer than most realize. Cortez explains:

“The venue is not in the stadium. The actual venue should be outside in Congress. I’ll go to Congress with them and kneel in protest. I’ll walk lockstep with these players,” he said.

The anthem controversy, however, is far more than your typical policy discussion. It has gained its life – and its teeth – from the emotional relevance and punch that both sides possess.

For Kapernick, it was that there are “bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

For Cortez, though, singing the anthem – and having it respected – is his therapy as a veteran. “It is the highest high…no drug can replace it, no drink can replace it. Patriotism is the highest high,” he added.

By the time Cortez’s November 12th performance date at Fed Ex comes around the NFL may have codified rules that prohibit players from engaging in the kinds of protests that we’ve seen around the league recently.

Yet, it is also possible that the league will choose to enshrine the players right to engage in such behavior.

All that is known for certain is that this weekend’s Redskins / 49ers game will be the last time that players will be able to perform their anthem protest in what amounts to disciplinary limbo.

After that, its anyone’s game.

Copyright 2017 WMAL.com All Rights Reserved. (Photo: Daniel P. Cortez)

 

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