Two centuries ago, during the War of 1812, the image of a single American flag flying at Maryland’s embattled Fort McHenry moved Francis Scott Key to write a poem, the Star-Spangled Banner.
That poem would later become the United States national anthem, sung at sporting events, during national holidays, and on our military bases.
This anthem continually reminds us how blessed we are to live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” It is a sacred symbol of our great country.
That’s why I was disappointed to see so many NFL players take a knee during the national anthem before their games this weekend – and not just because the U.S. Flag Code directs us to stand when it is played.
The players called it an act of protest. But in doing so, they are protesting the millions of Americans who have fought and died to protect our freedoms. They are protesting the flag draped on the casket of a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice and is coming home to rest.
They are also protesting the flag with which we celebrate our country’s greatest victories and most beautiful moments. It is the same flag that new Americans carry with pride at their citizenship ceremonies, and the flag so many of us hang with reverence in our homes.
When these athletes, role models for our nation, kneel during our Star-Spangled Banner but stand up for another country’s national anthem, it means we’ve lost our way.
President Trump was right to criticize the players who refused to stand. As he said to reporters on Sunday, “This has to do with respect for our country, and respect for our flag.”
That’s why I hope the NFL reflects on the example set by one of its own role models – Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger and player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was the only member of his team to stand on the field for the national anthem.
His show of respect for our flag and our anthem gave me hope that we are not too far gone.
I will always stand with those who fight for a better America. I believe it’s just as important to stand for the flag that gives us that right.
I join the President and Americans across the country in standing for our national anthem, with gratitude on my mind, and my hand on my heart.
Ronna McDaniel is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).