Academic Master

Education, English

The National Anthem: To Kneel or Not to Kneel


The national anthem of the USA is known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” which was officially recognized on 3rd March 1931. It was signed by the then president of USA Herbert Hoover. Before 1931 other songs like “Hail, Columbia,” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” were sung at the American officialdom. But these songs did not get the status of American national anthem. The lyrics of the anthem are from a poem written on 14 September 1814 by an American amateur poet named Francis Scott Key.

When the national anthem was first recognized there were no prescribed behavior during its playing, however in 1942 a law was passed stating that men wearing uniforms should salute during the playing, and men should remove their hats and stand in attention. By the end of that year the law was revised and now both men and women had to stand up with their hands over their hearts and face towards the direction of the music. Since then numerous changes in the law were made regarding the behavior of the listeners during the playing of the national anthem. But there was never a law to kneel down during the national anthem. The tradition of kneel down started as a protest in 2016 where some of the U.S athletes kneeled down in a protest against police brutality and racial inequality. Since then Kneeling downing during a national anthem has been a controversial issue.


The poem Defense of Fort M’Henry” was written in 1814, this was the time when the United States of America was in a state of war with United Kingdom. The war occurred because of the British’s attempt to block trade routes of USA. The United States suffered a lot during this war because British were the greatest naval power at that time and America was not so strong. The war resulted in the capturing of American troops and burning of the capital Washington DC in 1814. But the American troops were able to stop the British invasion in many states. Francis Scott Key wrote this poem during his trip to Maryland, he was highly impressed with the fact that despite America facing hardships during the war, the flag of America is still flying over the fort in the morning after a night of bombardments (Whiteley). His poem was published a week later and was made the national anthem by the Congress a few years later.

The tune of the national anthem was inspired by a popular British song “to Anacreon in Heaven. The tune of this poem is quite difficult to sing for those who are nonprofessional singers because of this wide range and high pitch. The lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner are also relatively challenging to memories. The lyrics of the anthem are deeply embedded in the history of the USA which is full of wars. In the lyrics, the use of words like brave and freedom depicts the significance of these two attributes in the life of American people (Ferris). The stars spangled banner is usually played at the start of public sports events and concerts in the United States. The controversy of kneeling down during the national anthem started in 2016 as a protest by athletes against ethnic discrimination and law enforcement agency ruthlessness. The protests initiated when Colin Kaepernick an American football player during the playing of the national anthem in the National football league (NFL) sat down and then kneeled down. This was against the tradition of standing during the playing of the national anthem. The doing of Colin Kaepernick received mixed reactions from the Americans as some called it discourteous to the US flag and unpatriotic act. The protesters believed that kneeling down is better the sitting as a silent protest against racial discrimination. They stated that their actions will bring in light the issue on the which the world is silent. On the other hand, many people believed it to be disrespectful towards the people who had died for the sake of the country. And many others believed it to be a disrespect towards the whole country.

Despite many negative feedbacks, the practice of kneeling down during sports events by players became more widespread it 2017. More than 200 players kneeled down during the National Football League (NFL) as a protested in response to the situation where the U.S president Donald Trump called the owners to terminate the players who are protesting. Donald Trump also believes that kneeling during the playing of the national anthem is disrespectful towards the military (Edelman).


A national anthem is a beautiful thing which ignites the sense of patriotism in heart of every listener. During the playing of a national anthem, everybody feels proud of their country and for the men who gave their life for the sake of their country. It is important to respect the national anthem in every possible way and to follow the protocols during the playing of the national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner has a beautiful 200 years long history and the lyrics of the poem reminds us of the glorious past of America and the hardships faced by our country during the war. I believe that although it is very important to raise a voice against issues of ethnic discrimination and police brutalities, but there are 100 different ways for protesting against the issues apart from disrespecting the national anthem.

Works cited

Edelman, Marc. “Standing to Kneel: Analyzing NFL Players’ Freedom to Protest during the Playing of the US National Anthem.” Fordham L. Rev. Online, vol. 86, 2018, p. 1.

Ferris, Marc. Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem. JHU Press, 2014.

Whiteley, Sheila. “1, 2, 3 What Are We Fighting 4?’Music, Meaning and ‘The Star Spangled Banner.” Remembering Woodstock, Routledge, 2017, pp. 18–28.



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