Schwartz: 10 Sentences – The Stands of Kinnick Edition

June 21, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

What the players do this season will be nothing compared to the fans. Ten sentences to prepare us for what’s in store:

1. Whether or not the Hawkeyes choose to kneel in 2020 seems like a foregone conclusion: they’re going to take a knee.

2. Most fans in Kinnick – if there are fans in Kinnick, which seems less likely by the day – will be fine with the Hawkeyes kneeling, even proud of them, and yes, some fans will be upset.

3. But here’s the more interesting question, one that hasn’t been explored as much but is going to be of particular interest this fall: how will fans react when other fans around them also kneel for the anthem, when the person in the seat next to them takes a knee to support the team, or to call attention to the injustices faced by so many people in this country, or for both reasons?

4. What happens when the Kinnick public-address announcer introduces the “military veteran of the game,” or asks veterans in the crowd to stand to be recognized, and 3 minutes later the friend they’ve high-fived for the last 10 seasons after every touchdown is on their knee as the Star Spangled Banner plays overhead?

5. To the person kneeling, the act of protest might be a way to honor their country – a country built on standing up for what is right – but to the veteran, it might feel like a slap in the face.

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6. Kneeling isn’t about a flag, or veterans – it’s about staring down injustice – but in that moment none of that will matter; in that moment two people who thought they knew each other will realize they are strangers, and they will have a millisecond to decide whether to treat each other civilly or as enemies.

7. This is so sad, so unfair, and yet here we are, because this is the position football’s power brokers have chosen to put us in with their actions over the decades, to align a violent-but-beautiful sport with patriotism and military and religion, three subjects that spark our deepest emotions, that cause us to dig in deeper than we’ve ever dug in before, and to give even an inch is, allegedly to some, a slap in the face to our country, or our loyalty, or even our God.

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8. Damnit, how did football come to this?

9. Thirteen weeks before the season starts, it would be nice to talk about position battles, two-deeps, and how the Big Ten West will shake out, but if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and each other we need to think about what football will look like in the fall – like, really look like, and that means gazing not just onto the field but into the stands, where it threatens to be far more dramatic than anything that happens between the end zones.

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10. This fall we will come face to face with something far scarier than kneeling football players: ourselves, and whether we’ll have the guts – no, the integrity – to accept and respect that our perspective might not be the perspective of our neighbor.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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