scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Hypocrisy is written into ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) knelt during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sept. 12, 2016.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Was it disrespectful or an act of courage when several NFL players took a knee while the national anthem was performed? It’s the latter. Why? Because their silent and powerfully visible act drew attention to the hypocrisy embedded within the anthem, namely “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

What hypocrisy? In 1814, when Francis Scott Key penned the stirring lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” slavery had been operating in this country for almost 200 years. Key had to have known that “the land of the free” was inhabited by hundreds of thousands of enslaved people and indentured servants, who were certainly not “free.” The hypocrisy, therefore, was the juxtaposition between his words and the verifiable truth.


Since then, progress has been made toward achieving equal rights and protections under the law (for example, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th and 14th Amendments), but the journey to bravely advocate for the eradication of systemic racism, and to provide all Americans with equality without exceptions, is still ongoing. Until then, the last line of our national anthem should read: “O’er the land of the nearly, almost, supposedly free and the home of the yet to be brave.”

John M. Mishler

Harpswell, Maine