Rock Music Menu: Musicians, like the rest, vary in response to kneeling controversy

Following President Trump’s calling for National Football League players who take a knee during the national anthem to be fired, teams across the country responded by kneeling in solidarity during last week’s games. There have been responses on both sides from those for and against the protest from politicians, the general public, celebrities and musicians. Here’s a look at how some of the latter are reacting to the situation.

Performing at last week’s Global Citizen Festival in New York City, music legend Stevie Wonder took to his knees in support of the protest. He said, “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America; but not just one knee, I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe. Amen.”

Soul songstress Andra Day also performed at the fest, and took on the song “Strange Fruit,” a protest anthem aimed toward racist tendencies made famous by Billie Holiday when she recorded it in 1939.

“So that was a song that was written over 80 years ago; and unfortunately, the message in the song is still just as relevant today as it was then,” Day said after concluding the emotional number.

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Wonder repeated his gesture the following day at the Charlottesville Unity Concert in Charlottesville, Va. along with Dave Matthews.

“Happy” singer Pharrell Williams also went down on one knee during the event, notable in more ways than one because it was the site of a white nationalist rally last month which resulted in the murder of a female counter protester.

“If I want to get on my knees right now for the people of my city, for the people of my state, that’s what this flag is for,” Williams said while he kneeled.

Prophets of Rage, the rap-rock supergroup featuring the core of Rage Against the Machine along with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B Real on vocals, tweeted out a photo of themselves not only down on one knee, but all wearing football player Colin Kaepernick jerseys. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback is credited with beginning the protests last season when he sat and then later kneeled during the anthem prior to games in response to police brutality toward African Americans.

“It’s instructive to note that when athletes take a knee to protest racism, that act is viewed by some as ‘un-American,’” Prophets guitarist Tom Morello told the Guardian this week. “Why? Because racism is as American as baseball or apple pie. To some, the American flag is a symbol of an evolving but imperfect democracy. But that flag is emblazoned on every US jet that destroys a civilian hospital in Afghanistan and on the uniform of every cop that murders an innocent black person in a US city. That flag also appears on the lapel of Donald Trump.”

During the Pilgrimage Festival last weekend in Tennessee, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder headlined as a solo act and at one point took a knee. Earlier in the day, Pearl Jam’s official Twitter account tweeted, “We support (Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett), (Kaepernick), and everyone’s constitutional right to stand up, sit down or #takeaknee for equality.”

Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters, who has been electrifying audiences with his Us + Them tour across North America, played Hartford, Conn. over the weekend, and showed his solidarity by kneeling for a full minute. The next morning he tweeted how it was an “incredible night” in the city and hash tagged “take a knee.”

Not everyone is in harmony with the kneeling movement. Noted right-wing supporter Ted Nugent posted a lengthy missive on his Facebook page originally written by another user on the social media platform. Title “Take a Knee,” it’s a scathing rebuttal at anyone who wants to kneel during the national anthem.

“Take a little trip to Valley Forge in January,” it begins. “If you don’t know where that is, just Google it from the sidelines. Hold a musket ball in your fingers and imagine it piercing your flesh and breaking a bone or two. There won’t be a doctor or trainer to assist you until after the battle, so just wait your turn. Take your cleats and socks off to get a real experience. Then take a knee.”

“You haven’t an inkling what it took to get you where you are; but your ‘protest’ is duly noted,” it continues later. “Not only is it disgraceful to a nation of real heroes, it serves the purpose of pointing to your ingratitude for those who chose to defend you under that banner that will still wave long after your jersey is issued to another…”

Michael Sweet, guitarist and singer for the Christian metal band Stryper, also took to his Facebook page to weigh in on the controversy. He noted that while it was okay for players to take a knee, it somehow isn’t okay for anyone else to, “use their freedom of speech or ‘rights’ to speak against players taking a knee?”

“Many people will stop supporting not only those players, but those teams as well,” he continued. “Maybe owners and coaches should step back and reevaluate the fact that it’s a game, it’s a job. It’s not a political platform. Play ball and do the job that you get paid millions and millions of dollars to do. Do what you want off the field but on the field just play ball.”

Not matter what your personal take on the situation, it’s going to be interesting to see how this weekend of NFL games plays out.

To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to rockmusicmenu@gmail.com. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com

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