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

It's more than just the military.

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.

More
Gillette

Jim and Carol lived an active, exciting life together as husband and wife. But when Jim was struck by a car while cycling near his home, their life changed dramatically. Jim was left needing round-the-clock care, and Carol, a retired nurse, took on the role of caregiver.

Every day, Carol helps Jim through his physical therapy and personal grooming routines. "If we don't do what we do on a daily basis to help him move forward, he'll become more and more dependent," Carol says. "Some days the challenges are very difficult."

More than 40 million Americans are in Carol's shoes, providing unpaid caregiving to loved ones who are disabled, elderly, or otherwise in need of assistance. With baby boomers getting older and people living longer, many middle-aged people find themselves caring for aging parents or grandparents. Others may have a developmentally delayed adult child at home, or a family member who has become disabled due to an accident or illness. From cooking to cleaning to bathing, caregivers help others do everyday tasks they aren't able to do for themselves.

RELATED: These glimpses into the lives of caregivers prove they're real unsung heroes.

Hygiene and grooming are a big part of a caregiver's job, and anything that makes those tasks easier is a good thing. That's why Gillette's new TREO razor, specifically designed for shaving other people, caught our eye.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
via Ria Tan / Flickr and Kevin Walsh / Flickr

Climate change deniers often mock the claim that gas expelled from cows, either through the mouth or the bottom, is a major cause of global warming.

It was even a point of debate when Republicans were discussing the Green New Deal.

But it's true. According to the United Nations, livestock farming produces about 18% of environmentally damaging gases — and about a quarter of that chunk comes from cow emissions.

When cows digest food in their intestines it ferments, which causes them to expel methane. When methane is released into the atmosphere without being burned off, it absorbs the sun's heat, warming the atmosphere.

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Facebook / RoseMary Klontz

The couple that dresses together stays together, or at least in the case of these two lovebirds.

Francis and RoseMary Klontz, who will celebrate their 68thwedding anniversary next month, have been coordinating their outfits since they first started dating in high school.

"My mother got us matching shirts when we were in high school – well, I picked them out — and we've been matching ever since," Rosemary told CBS Sacramento.

The Plumas Lake, Calif. couple, who've served together in ministry at churches throughout the West for decades, first met in middle school.

Keep Reading Show less
Family

Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

Culture