Brandon Roy can stand where he wants for the anthem

November, 25, 2009
11/25/09
11:03
AM ET
By Henry Abbott

In today's Oregonian, John Canzano points out that Brandon Roy is in the habit of leaving the court and standing in a hallway under the stands during the national anthem. Roy says he does not do it to protest anything. He does it because he wants a quiet moment to himself.

Simple as that.

Roy also says that if a lot of people find it upsetting, he'll stop.

A prediction for you, Brandon:

A lot of people are going to find it upsetting.
Those stands are filled with all different kinds of people. But many of them are war veterans and their families.

Like you, I'm lucky enough to have never served in a war. We have the luxurious option of seeing the flag and anthem as symbols of our country.

Like, say, how a wedding ring is a symbol of a marriage.

I could not love my wife more, but if I lost my wedding ring, well, I'd look around for a while, be very happy that I had lost the little piece of gold and not, you know, the actual wife, and then I'd take my credit card to the jewelry store.

The ring is not my relationship, it's a symbol of it. A replaceable symbol.

Of course there are people who similarly love the heck out of America but just don't get all fired up about anthems and flags.

But I have to respect that for some, especially those who served in war, the flag and the anthem aren't just symbols. They're main ingredients. And it makes sense. They've spent time in hell, with friends and loved ones getting killed and maimed in service to that flag. In some cases, the flag is all they have left -- the loved ones are gone.

And why? Philosophers have tried to understand war for thousands of years. All that death. What do you get out of it? Sometimes it's confusing. Through all the funerals and the rehabilitation and the post-traumatic stress disorder and everything else, one thing we get out of it is ... that flag. Intact. Proud. Democratic. Free. American.

Go back to that wedding ring analogy. I was so happy that I had lost the ring and not the wife. But what if it were the other way around? What I were a widower, with just a ring left from what was a marriage? It wouldn't be the craziest thing ever to become fiercely protective of that ring, much like those who have lost people for the flag are about the flag.

Standing there for a couple of minutes while somebody sings doesn't seem like the worst thing to ask, if nothing else as a way to honor the people around us who have had terrible experiences we were so lucky to avoid.

Freedom.
All that said, let's not get confused.

It would be nice for Brandon Roy to honor people in this way, by standing proudly in front of fans, honoring the country, as the national anthem is sung.

But Canzano writes that "there's no government agency charged with policing the anthem," like that's a bad thing.

Look at the places on the planet where governments police singing and honoring the national anthem. I'd encourage you so start with the early pages of Brook Larmer's book "Operation Yao Ming" for instance, with tales of Yao's mother living through the horrible throes of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Searching history, and the globe, you'll find plenty of paranoid dictators and autocratic regimes of all kinds who loved to make sure everyone sang along, no matter what was in their hearts.

In short, you'll find the kind of tyranny that the founding fathers were so eager to crush when they started this nation.

The belief in this country was that individual freedoms trumped widespread uniformity.

Yes, even during the national anthem.

And it's practical. The truth is that on a project like standing to honor the anthem and flag, getting almost everyone on board is easy. But getting absolutely everyone? That takes some brand of policing by some authority figure, whether it's the U.S. Government, David Stern or Nate McMillan. Who wants that? In a free society, we're always going to have to tolerate a few outliers, and that's OK.

So, let me say again, that it would be nice for Brandon Roy to stand on the court during the national anthem. I'd advise him to. But it's not required by law, nor by rule, and that's a good thing.

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