By Hannah Reich Berman

 The U.S. Soccer Federation now prohibits players from kneeling during the singing of our national anthem. It took a few months for the members of the federation to come to that position, but better late than never. Hooray for them!

Colin Kaepernick started the kneeling nonsense and, as so often is the case, it did not take long before others decided to copy him. Recently, a female soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, kneeled during the playing of the national anthem. Presumably, she got this bright idea from Kaepernick. However, there has been a change. Players have now been advised by the federation that anyone refusing to respectfully stand will be removed from the team. Rapinoe is currently out with an injury so it’s unclear if she will be given a second chance or if she will be booted and no longer allowed to play. She does not play in a pro league but in one of the international leagues regulated by this agency.

Overall, there is little patience for these types of protesters. The public watches the games. This is our country, and our national anthem is appropriate. So if one is representing this country, he or she is representing us and has an obligation to behave accordingly.

None of this nonsense would ever pertain to me. For starters, other than sedentary activities such as canasta and mah-jongg–which are not “activities,” in the strict sense of the word–I do not participate in games. Even as a youth, I never played tennis, softball, or any other game that required physical effort. So participating in a game of soccer–international or otherwise–has never been on my radar screen. Also, I am not big on participating in public protest, although any protest that is not done publicly is a worthless one. But if I were an athlete and a protester, kneeling is something I would not do because I was taught that a Jew is not allowed to kneel. While the “kneel” that Kaepernick and Rapinoe displayed was not a full kneel (they went down on just one knee), it is unclear to me if that would be an acceptable form of kneeling for Jews.

For a variety of other reasons, however, I will not bother to inquire. Kneeling is not for me, and has not been for a very long time. So, even if I were not Jewish, I would not assume the position, because my knees just ain’t what they used to be! They were never good, but now they are worse than ever. It would hurt too much to kneel, which is something I discovered many years ago when attempting to do one of my yoga poses. The pain was intense, but because I was a determined yoga devotee, I made the attempt. In order to do it, I brought two pillows to my yoga class. And that was in addition to the knee pads that I wore. When I did get on my knees I was no doubt a glorious sight!

Making the assumption, however, that both of my knees were in good condition, there is yet another reason I would not consider going down on them. Doing a full, or even a single, knee-bend would mean that, without assistance, I would never be able to get myself upright again. I know this from a past experience.

It happened more than a year ago, when I fell. Fortunately, my spill took place in my house and some friends were visiting at the time. Everyone shrieked and rushed over to me, but they relaxed when it became clear that I was not injured. They all wanted to help me up, but I knew that would not work so I resisted the kind offers of assistance. Knowing that there is a crane rental service located in Lawrence, a neighborhood not far from my home, I briefly considered asking someone to call that company to rent one of those gigantic yellow things.

But I also know that a crane is a large piece of equipment for outdoor use on construction sites. So, given the impracticality of renting one to help me up, I devised a more sensible plan to get myself up from the kitchen floor. First, I slowly got myself into a sitting position and then, in a considerably weakened state, I gave the following instructions. “Please take two pillows from my couch and bring them to me. Then bring a chair over here and place it directly in front of me.” Nobody questioned my game plan. They did as I asked and then the festivities began. Until this very day I do not know how my friends controlled themselves. I was sure that at any moment, some (or all) of them would burst out laughing. But to their credit, and to my eternal gratitude, nobody did. With as much determination and strength as I could muster, and trying desperately to ignore the pain that even the pillows could not completely ease, I got onto my hands and knees. Next, slowly raising first one arm and then the other, I planted both forearms on the seat of the chair and slowly and painfully hoisted myself to an upright position. It did not escape me that it was surely a singularly unattractive sight. And, for me, it was an embarrassing one.

While there is no way I would intentionally get down on one or both of my knees, I think the position is fine when others do it during a yoga class, but it is offensive when somebody does it during the rendition of our national anthem. There is, however, a solution for these athletes who wish to protest by being dismissive of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which has been our official national anthem for nearly a century. Those with an axe to grind should show their displeasure another way. They should simply opt out by remaining in the locker room and staying there until it is time for play to begin.

That’s the way it is–or at least that is the way it should be!

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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