Conservatives were furious when Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem. They continued this trend as other sportsmen followed their lead. Kaepernick was blessed with many advantages and privileges that were not available to other races. Kaepernick sold Nike sneakers made in terrible conditions in third-world countries, which is a stunning irony. Many detested and still hate Kaepernick. He was seen as biting the hands of the country that fed them. In our drug-addicted country kneeling for the national anthem was a mark of true enlightenment. Kaepernick was almost made a saint for his hatred of the country responsible for his success. However, it is possible to argue that he refused to stand for the national anthem, in this instance, the Iranian one.
Reuters reports that the Iranian soccer team didn’t sing their national anthem during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar prior to Monday’s match against England. As the anthem was played, all 11 players remained silent. According to The Daily Mail, the anthem also elicited jeers from the crowd. Both the players and the crowd stood in solidarity with Iranian protests. The stadium was occupied by protestors holding signs. Catherine Perez-Shakdam is an expert in Iran at the Henry Jackson Society. She told the Mail:
“The players will have to pay dearly for the refusal of Iran’s football team to sing the Islamic Republic national anthem.” Any Iranian fan found guilty of booing the national anthem by the regime will be severely punished. This is Iran’s brutal truth today. Iran’s actors may have lost more than their freedom today. Their lives might not be the only ones at risk. The regime has a tendency to target family members of dissidents and deter others from speaking out. It is clear that Iran’s terrible track record shows that even though the fans and players today shunned it, they knew the risks they were taking. This courage and dignity displayed in the face of absolutism is a worthy tribute.
Protests in Iran have been ongoing since Mahsa Alimini, a woman who was not properly covered by a hijab, was killed by police. The United States placed sanctions on Iran and its morality officers for Amini’s murder and for “other human rights violations” in Iran. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called them “other human rights violations” in Iran.
Fans booing the anthem and the soccer team have every reason to be concerned about their safety. Fox News reported that nine people were killed in protests against Iran’s regime. Nine of these protesters set fires to the police offices and stabbed an enforcer. Around 41 people were killed in a protest on Sept 26 and over 1,200 were detained in another. Videos of protesters standing on a subway platform and shouting “I am free!” were captured this weekend. A man is seen being shot by police with a paintball gun. Another video shows a group of people running upstairs to reach a metro station while one person is being dragged to the ground by police. Protesters set fire to the AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini museum on Nov. 15. Fox reports that at most one person has been sentenced to death.
There is a world of difference between the American kneelers, and the Iranian players. Amateur and professional American teams who feel oppressed are aware that the worst they can expect is a few tweet comments or negative opinion-eds. They will be praised as brave and heroic. Iranian fans and players know that they will be held by the government for speaking out against human rights violations. They and their families may disappear at worst.
Remember Mahsa Amini, Iranian soccer fans and players, and the Iranian people this Thanksgiving.