Something Strange Happened to Me At The Cubs Game

I’ve been a Cub fan my whole life. The past two years have been a real joy and I am excited to follow them around for this year’s playoffs, which started Friday night at Wrigley Field.

When I arrived at Wrigley for Game 1 against the San Francisco Giants with my friend, activism was the last thing on my mind. I was caught up in the electric excitement of Cubs playoff baseball at Wrigley Field.

Me and my buddy before the game and pre-activism on 10/7/2016.

And then something bizarre and unpredictable happened. The public address announcer asked everyone to rise and remove their caps for the national anthem. And I didn’t.

I hadn’t been planning this. I haven’t been buying Kaepernick jerseys. I hadn’t be reading all the hot takes about his protest. But I did read a few thought pieces that were considerate and even handed about the protest.

His actions resonated with me as a reasonable and productive protest in response to unreasonable and unproductive treatment of black people by police. But, to be brutally honest, it stopped there for me, as all of these things do. I was happy enough to be outraged at the injustice on Facebook and Twitter, but left it there. Which isn’t very courageous.

So I was as surprised as anyone when I instinctually (I can’t stress enough how unplanned and visceral my actions were) refused to stand for the national anthem when asked. I quickly realized I was the only one who wasn’t standing.

What came next is what compelled me to write this: sitting in my seat during the national anthem was scary. I was afraid I was going to get in a fight before the game even started.

42,000 people are surprisingly quiet during the anthem, so you can hear every little comment made. “Look at this fucking guy, he won’t stand up for his country.” “Hey, hey, see that piece of shit? Who does he think he is?” My senses were on high alert in that moment I felt the intimidation intensely. I wasn’t welcome. While I am from Chicago, a lifelong fan, a white guy, someone who could afford to sit among them in the expensive seats behind home plate…I still wasn’t welcome because I refused to stand. If I got treated that way…

What about Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe and tens of thousands of others who are courageously protesting in a peaceful way for equitable, fair and safe treatment of all people in this world? How is it for them? After my tiny little experience, I can’t even imagine the weight they must feel with the whole world watching them. They are undeniably courageous.

I don’t expect to change your mind if you think people should stand for the national anthem. I wrote this for the people out there like me who complain to each other online and don’t do anything about it. I urge you to do just one thing that makes you publicly uncomfortable while standing up for something you believe in. Just one. It will change you.

We need more action. More public modeling of progressive values. More push back on subtle, systemic oppression. We don’t have to be heroes to make a difference. We owe it to Colin Kaepernick and everyone he represents to be there with them in the real world, not just from the safety of our phones.

I didn’t get into a fight. I was able to enjoy a great Cubs victory. My favorite player Javy Baez hit the game-winning HR. I’m on my way to SF for Game 3. I’ll sit there too, but as a Cub fan, might get even worse treatment. That’s okay.

The world didn’t end because my privileged white ass felt uncomfortable for a few moments, squirming in my expensive seat. I’m not doing the heavy lifting. But I did something, and I hope you’ll consider doing something too.

Thanks to Colin Kaepernick for the inspiration.

Me after my favorite player Javy Baez hit a HR for a Cubs 1–0 win!