Keith Woods

Update: On May 23, 2018, the NFL unveiled a new policy stating that all of its athletes and staff "shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem" if they're on the field. The following essay was published in August 2016, shortly after quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel in protest during the national anthem.

This piece originally ran in September, 2016, when Colin Kaepernick was still with the San Francisco 49ers.

Daddy would not have liked Colin Kaepernick. Had the San Francisco quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem in my father's presence, Daddy would have fixed him in a stare that could freeze the blood in your veins. Then, to no one in particular — but to everyone within earshot — he'd give the young man a two-sentence lesson in patriotic etiquette.

My sons remember the bitter cold. And they remember the warmth.

They felt it on the toasty subway car jammed to the doorsills with people at 5 a.m., smiling a knowing smile at strangers riding with us from Columbia Heights to the National Mall and Barack Obama's second presidential inauguration.

Daddy would not have liked Colin Kaepernick. Had the San Francisco quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem in my father's presence, Daddy would have fixed him in a stare that could freeze the blood in your veins. Then, to no one in particular — but to everyone within earshot — he'd give the young man a two-sentence lesson in patriotic etiquette.

"You stand during the national anthem," he'd say, punctuating his words with fire. "People died for that flag."