The wrong message

S omehow, in all the daily tumult out of Washington, I had forgotten about Roseanne Barr’s screech of a National Anthem before a July, 1990, game between the Reds and Padres in San Diego. Barr’s the comedienne who was not so funny last week tweeting racist remarks about former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett and […]

Revisiting the National Anthem protest

By Marc Katz

Somehow, in all the daily tumult out of Washington, I had forgotten about Roseanne Barr’s screech of a National Anthem before a July, 1990, game between the Reds and Padres in San Diego.

Barr’s the comedienne who was not so funny last week tweeting racist remarks about former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett and anti-Semitic remarks about Democratic billionaire donor George Soros.

This, on the coattails of the NFL’s decision to bar players from kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.

That the two subjects are linked really ties into what our country has become lately. Minorities have not been treated well, and due to the strong voice from the White House, it seems okay to demean anyone who disagrees with an opposing view.

Originally, I was trying to decide between two other topics for this week’s space, but the Anthem controversy won out even as I suggest to you this subject will have a long play date. Of course the person sitting in the President’s chair in Washington had no time to rebuke Barr for her tweets and his take on ABC cancelling her new show, except to admonish Disney CEO Bob Iger for cancelling the show, apologizing to Jarrett and not apologizing to the President for ABC shows that have been unkind to him.

It was just a couple months ago he had plenty of time to call Barr, offering congratulations for her high ratings.

And he certainly wasn’t going to shame Barr in the manner he tried to do with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling during National Anthems more than two years ago began this controversy.

It was Kaepernick’s intention to protest racial injustice in this country. It was a non-violent, non-destructive pose, and hit its mark when people questioned what he was doing. At least they heard the message Kaepernick was sending.

Suddenly, the message changed when the President decided Kaepernick’s exercise was disrespectful to the flag and the country. He called players SOBs and suggested recently if they didn’t want to respect this country’s flag, maybe they shouldn’t be
living here.

He never addressed what the real protest was about.

The President’s message ran so loud and so long, it easily distracted from Kaepernick’s intentions. At that point, the quarterback might have better served his cause with a protest that wouldn’t rile a guy who judges success and failure by the way it plays
on television.

Kaepernick might also have looked back through history to find out what happened to Barr, who also had no intention of disrespecting the flag or country, yet ended up doing so, and paying dearly.

During the summer of 1990, Barr didn’t look particularly respectful when she took the field in San Diego to sing the Anthem, and had been cautioned just a few days before on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show not to start on too high a note.

She did, and was booed by more than 30,000 fans. You can see the entire rendition on You Tube, but keep the volume low.

After she finished, she tried to mimic players, first turning her head and spitting, then grabbing her crotch. There was really no way of knowing if she were just a bad mime, or was trying to say something about the flag, the country or the Anthem.

Almost three years ago, Geoff Edgers of the Washington Post revisited Barr’s Anthem, with her telling him she paid a steep price for what she did. She told him her son was harassed at school, several projects she was working on were cancelled and she endured police protection on the roof of her home for two years.

The first President George Bush called her rendition “distasteful,” which was the distinct way Presidents used to display disfavor.

Now, almost 28 years have passed, but Barr seems not to have learned any lessons, and the current President is not going to rebuke her.

Her tweet was clearly racist and repulsive, yet the ever-tweeting President is suddenly silent with too many other things to do. A few weeks ago, he didn’t let anything get in the way of praising Barr for the high ratings of her new show, which now has
been canceled.

And the President had plenty of praise for the NFL owners who passed a league rule that players on the field for the National Anthem must stand.

Barr is plenty older, but not wiser. She again is paying for being thoughtless and worse, and it hurts to discover some people have a difficult time wondering what exactly she did wrong.

She did plenty wrong, and she’s made it her legacy. Mention Roseanne Barr and a funny joke won’t come to mind. It will be her absurd National Anthem, and her tweets that didn’t make you laugh.

And we’ll also remember a President who didn’t seem to care.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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