The current "scandal" of athletes not standing for the National Anthem is especially poignant in the United States where symbolism and tradition have long garnered strong emotions. The flag and the anthem are closely tied to our identity as "leader of the free world" and those who tarnish or disrespect them are, in the eyes of many Americans, engaging in treasonous behavior.
Unfortunately, the freedoms represented by those symbols are not evenly distributed and the abuse of minority groups, by police and others, has long been a component of American society. Convinced that little change will occur without major shifts in the public's perspective, a group of athletes have used their high visibility to force the white majority out of their comfort zone. Not standing for the National Anthem, as the flag of freedom waves nearby, seemed to be a good first-step and, to date, has received plenty of attention.
Derided as unpatriotic, the demonstrators have been ridiculed across the country; one is reminded of the "our country, right or wrong" sentiment during the Vietnam War. But patriotism must be earned by the leadership and social structure of a country. When basic human rights are denied to a segment of that society, none of us is truly free and patriotism is an empty gesture if racism is condoned.