Bob Costas offers a powerful look at the debate over kneeling football players.

Sportscaster Bob Costas appeared on CNN over the weekend to talk about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem — and provided an important perspective on patriotism while he was at it.

It's been more than a year since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick quietly sat out the national anthem before a pre-season game to protest police violence in America. On Sunday, dozens of players around the league followed in his footsteps after President Donald Trump demanded players stand during the anthem.

In a brilliant segment on CNN, Costas contextualized the protests, asking us all to take a step back and ask ourselves a few fundamental questions about what it means to be a patriot.


How did we get to this place where professional sports have become so linked to patriotism and the military, anyway?

"Patriotism and the flag have been conflated," Costas explained.

GIFs via CNN.

"If you go to see 'Hamilton,' which is about the founding of the republic, no one says, 'Wait a minute! Don’t raise the curtain until we hear the national anthem.' When you went to see '[Saving] Private Ryan,' no one said, 'Turn off the projector until we’ve had the national anthem,'" Costas said. "It’s in sports where this stuff happens — sometimes movingly, sometimes, I’d submit, cynically."

The story of how sports became synonymous with patriotism has roots in wartime support for soldiers but also in "paid patriotism." A 2015 report commissioned by the offices of Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake (both R-Arizona) found that the Department of Defense had spent millions of dollars in recent years paying pro sports leagues to hold "patriotic" events. Until 2009, NFL players weren't even required to be on the sidelines during the anthem, much less stand at attention as it played.

Members of the New England Patriots kneel during the national anthem before their Sept. 24, 2017 game. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images.

As Costas suggested, if patriotism only means showing blind fealty to the flag and military, that's easy. Much more difficult is recognizing that patriotism can take many other forms.

"Because wrapping yourself in the flag and honoring the military is something which nobody is going to object to," he said. "We all respect their sacrifice. We all honor their sacrifice, and yet what it has come to mean, is that the flag is primarily and only about the military."

Patriotism can be expressed in a lot of different ways, Costas emphasized — and those forms of patriotism don't always relate to the flag or the military.

"Martin Luther King was a patriot, Susan B. Anthony was a patriot, dissidents are patriots, school teachers and social workers are patriots," he explained.

Patriotism means fighting for a better country and living up to the ideals that the flag and the anthem are supposed to represent.

The flag and the anthem are symbols. It's the ideals behind them that matter.

"People cannot see that in his own way, Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing," Costas said.

Colin Kaepernick (right) and Eric Reid kneel before the 49ers' Sept. 12, 2016, game. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

Back in 2016, after Kaepernick first sat out the anthem (he sat for one game but switched to taking a knee as a way to show respect for the flag and the military, as ironic in the current context as it may be), he explained why he was protesting. His explanation fits perfectly with Costas's definition of patriotism.

"When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand," Kaepernick said at the time. "There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards."

Those are the patriots we need in this country, now more than ever. The ones unwilling to simply accept the status quo, but to fight for American ideals.

Watch Costas's powerful interview on CNN below.

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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