Post Covid-19. After the virus, there will be changes put in place designed to deter the spread of viruses. That's good. That's fine.
Now is also a time to modify one our great traditions. The tradition of playing the national anthem before sporting events. The tradition began during World War II when the anthem was played at NFL and Major League baseball games to support patriotism within the country. The tradition continued after the war well into the 21st century. We tend to get stuck in our traditions.
Forgotten was the point that sports was supposed to be a distraction from real life drama, including military conflicts. In the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a fist during the medal ceremony while the national anthem was being played. They were protesting racial inequality and racism in the United States. For that act of protest they were banned from the Olympics and sent home. Their futures, what little there was for black men then, were ruined.
Some 45 plus years later, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem as a social protest against the mistreatment of black people in the United States. As in 1968, politicians and others attempted to place Colin's actions as a form of disrespect against the military and those who fought and died in past and present wars. It was a brilliant technique and distraction to cover the real reason for the social protest. Of course many people fell for the distraction. Colin was blackballed after the 2016 NFL season and no team has given him the opportunity to play in the NFL again. Welcome to America Colin!
As we reflect during Covid-19, we realize that it will be awhile before people will gather in arenas and stadiums to watch sporting events. During this pause, we have the opportunity to rethink the national anthem tradition. Do we continue the current tradition? Or do we use the moment to finally and publicly acknowledge that we were created by a God whose Grace has allowed many of us to survive a world wide pandemic and many more events in the past?
Before each sporting event, let's try this. Play a soft quiet instrumental melody, devoid of human words. Invite the audience to "Stand and Pray". Allow each person to stand in place and pray to God in his or her own way. No one person leads the crowd in prayer. This is personal. Each person says or doesn't say what ever prayer they want.
What happens if players' don't stand and pray? Nothing. They have that right not to pray. Will they be blackballed out of their league? What happens if someone in the audience doesn't stand? Nothing. They too have the right not to pray.
The first sporting event after Covid-19 would be a great time to start this practice. Whether it's high school, college, or at the professional level. Stand and Pray. Raise your hands above your head and Stand and Pray. Give thanks for surviving Covid-19. Pray for those who did not survive Covid-19. Pray for the families who lost loved ones due to Covid-19. Pray for nursing homes in the future being safe from such devastating events. Pray for events not related to Covid-19. Just Stand and Pray!
Covid-19 is a worldwide humbling event. It got our attention, by force. It changed many of us, even if we were not infected. It put our sports idols on the shelves. It made many entertainers irrelevant. Standing in line for over an hour for a box of food can make you forget about that personality you idolized for years. The social distancing brought some of us closer to God or introduced us to God for the first time. Covid-19 gave us time together in our homes. It separated some of us from loved ones in hospitals. It made us appreciate whatever blessings we have in our lives. The virus was the means by which we were given the opportunity to reflect on our behavior and actions.
Lessons learned. Now it's time to react. At our sporting events Stand and Pray. Even if the national anthem continues to be played. Raise your arms, and Stand and Pray.