This Sunday's slate of football games will once again spur a national debate about which players are sitting, kneeling, standing, raising fists, linking arms, etc., during the pregame performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" in solidarity or opposition with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During the preseason, he made a point of not standing for the national anthem as a protest of racial injustice and the shootings of unarmed black people in America, saying, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
He's been called everything from a hero to a traitor, along with some very ugly racial slurs, and while so many people have an opinion on what this backup quarterback does, we wonder how many people know the history of our national anthem and why it's become a pre-game staple at every sporting event.
The song's origins come from the War of 1812, specifically the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. Lawyer Francis Scott Key, aboard a British ship in an effort to negotiate the release of an imprisoned American doctor, watched as the city was bombarded with rockets. At the dawn of Sept. 14, 1814, he saw that the country's flag was still flying above Fort McHenry, inspiring him to write the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry." It was published in a newspaper and, with Key's assistance, adapted into a song by publisher Thomas Carr. He put the words to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," which originated in an 18th-century London social club as a tribute to a Greek poet known for his drinking songs. Key had previously used the melody for his tribute to soldiers of the Barbary Wars, which were fought between the United States and several countries in the Ottoman Empire's hold on northern Africa. It was called "When the Warrior Returns." He wrote it in 1805 and it included the lyrics, " And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured/By the light of the star-spangled flag of our nation."