Thankfully, Crashburn Alley isn’t the only destination in the sporting blogosphere with a somewhat reasoned take on Josh Howard’s decision to blow off the national anthem during a flag football game.  “Josh Howard is a public relations disaster. I concede that,” writes Joey from Straight Banging. “But he did something I do all the time: he failed to engage in the largely mindless and generally worthless pre-sports incantation of the national anthem.”

I don’t see how Howard’s non-participation is any different from instances when people like me go to a basketball game and remain seated while complaining about some of the United States’ appalling missteps. It’s called free speech. Exercising it is among the most American activities possible. Reciting the anthem before a game is a synthetic sign of national pride and solidarity, so if the concept of “America” is going to be shoved in people’s faces, those who would have the anthem sung can’t then get upset when others, upon considering the United States, realize that it may not be worthy of reflexive adulation and support.

Second, there’s a lot wrong with the United States. For example, it’s a racist country. And, sickly, plenty of people are fine with it. That’s how you get a leading presidential candidate who feels comfortable releasing racist ads. That’s how you get a population that will countenance spending billions of dollars a month to rebuild some other country that we recklessly and needlessly invaded but won’t summon the political will to pay teachers more money or take any other meaningful steps to address the societal failings that trap poor people in deadend lives. And, of course, a disproportionate number of those affected by our collective malaise and contempt for the poor are black. Just as I sit here concerned about aspects of our country but no less appreciative that the U.S. provides me with the right to voice this dissent, so, too, could someone like Josh Howard work his way through the system and come out a millionaire without relenquishing the understanding that for most poor blacks, that’s a foreclosed possibility. What’s unamerican about speaking that truth? What’s disrespectful about being real?