Colin Kaepernick's national anthem snub the latest in history of sporting events

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the centre of controversy earlier this week when he refused to stand during the Star Spangled Banner before a pre-season game — saying the U.S. oppresses black Americans and other minorities — but the incident is not the first sports anthem gaffe.

Some anthem gaffs have been political, others inadvertent or simply bad form

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem because he believes the country oppresses black Americans and other minorities. (Ben Margot/Associated Press)

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the centre of controversy earlier this week when he refused to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner before a pre-season game — saying the U.S. oppresses black Americans and other minorities — but the incident is just one in a long history of sports anthem gaffes.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour," the San Francisco 49ers player said Saturday in an interview with NFL Media.

To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder," Kaepernick said, referring to shootings of black Americans by police.

In fact, U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas recently drew scorn because she didn't put her hand over her heart during her country's national anthem at a Rio Olympics gold medal ceremony.

Here are other examples.

'Stupidest war ever'

Slugger and first baseman Carlos Delgado vowed to sit during the singing of God Bless America throughout the 2003-2004 MLB season, while he was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, in protest against the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

His opposition to the war and the singing of the song wasn't made public or apparent — even to his own teammates — until a story published in the Toronto Star quoted him as calling the Iraq conflict "the stupidest war ever."

The singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch was initially introduced by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

During a July 21, 2004, game against the New York Yankees in the Big Apple, Delgado was booed by the Bronx Bombers faithful.

Carlos Delgado of the Toronto Blue Jays grounds out in the first inning during a game against the New York Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, on July 21, 2004. Delgado was booed by fans for his refusal to participate during the singing of God Bless America. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

'Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place'

Maria Dmitrienko won gold for Kazakhstan at the 2012 Arab Shooting Championships in Kuwait, but officials bungled the medal ceremony when they played the spoof Kazakh anthem performed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the 2006 comedy film Borat.

Lyrics from the fake anthem included, "Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan you very nice place," "Kazakhstan number one exporter of potassium" and "Kazakhstan's prostitutes cleanest in the region."

Organizers said they downloaded the wrong version mistakenly. They apologized to Dmitrienko and the ceremony was rerun with the proper anthem.

Maria Dmitrienko won a gold for Kazakhstan at the 2012 Arab Shooting Championships, but officials played a fake version of her country's anthem during the medals ceremony. (YouTube)

Shooting guard shoots during O Canada

Former Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade riled up Canadians during Game 3 of the 2016 Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Toronto Raptors after he didn't stand on guard during the singing of O Canada.

Instead, Wade chose to shoot around during the anthem, which he said was his pre-game ritual.

Although it went mostly unnoticed by fans packed in the American Airlines Arena in Miami, many Canadians called his actions disrespectful.

Wade rejected the notion that he was a disrespectful person, but later apologized. The Raptors went on to win the series in seven games.

Dwyane Wade is getting heat from fans for practising during Canadian national anthem. 0:48

'All lives matter to the great'

During this year's MLB All-Star game, B.C.-based vocal quartet The Tenors sang the Canadian anthem on-field at San Diego's Petco Park, but the performance was mired in controversy after one of the members altered the lyrics.

During a solo, Remigio Pereira changed the words of O Canada from, "With glowing hearts we see the rise, the True North strong and free," to "We're all brothers and sisters, all lives matter to the great."

Pereira even brandished a sign with the words "All Lives Matter," inviting scorn from a plethora of Canadians, including Don Cherry.

The Tenors labelled him a "lone wolf" and kicked him out of the group. He later apologized.

Remigio Pereira inserts 'all lives matter' during solo 0:18

'I Can't Breathe'

In 2014, many NBA players wore shirts with the words "I Can't Breathe" written on them, in reference to the death of Eric Garner, a black man who was heard saying the line 11 times while he was placed in a chokehold and brought down by police officers in New York City. Garner eventually died from injuries incurred during the incident.

Players, including superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, wore the shirts in solidarity with the black community and to support Garner's family.

"I respect...all of our players for voicing their personal views on important issues, but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

During a Dec. 11, 2014, game against the Houston Rockets, players for the home team Sacramento Kings wore the shirts during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Players for the Sacramento Kings basketball team wear 'I Can't Breathe' shirts as they stand for the National Anthem before their NBA game against the Houston Rockets in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

'Germany, Germany above everything'

Before a soccer match between Germany and Austria at the 2008 Euro Cup in Vienna, Austria, a Swiss broadcaster aired subtitles during the German anthem that read, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles," which translates to "Germany, Germany above everything."

The verse was part of the official anthem during the Nazi era, but it was dropped after the Second World War.

The station blamed the mistake on a 25-year-old staffer who "made the error due to a lack of knowledge."

Germany eventually bested Austria 1-0.

Fans watch a Euro 2008 Group B soccer match between Austria and Germany on a big screen in Vienna. A Swiss broadcaster aired subtitles of Nazi-era lyrics during the German national anthem before the match. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The ireful on ice

The Russian Hockey Federation was fined after the men's national team snubbed the playing of O Canada after losing to Canada 6-1 in the finals of the 2015 world championship.

The International Ice Hockey Federation said the move, which eventually cost the RHF $85,000 US, was deliberate and initiated by an "unmistakable hang gesture" by team captain and former NHL player Ilya Kovalchuk. 

The RHF claimed the anthem flap was due to confusion after the rink-side gate was left open, which Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko blamed on tournament organizers.

Some Russian players — including NHL stars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin — remained on the ice during the anthem.

The IIHF is planning to hit the Russian Ice Hockey Federation with fines after players left the ice prior to the playing of the Canadian anthem during Sunday's gold medal game. 0:37

Black Power salute at Olympics

Possibly the most well-known political demonstration during the performance of a national anthem at a sporting event occurred during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, when two black American athletes each raised a black-gloved fist during the Star-Spangled Banner at a medals ceremony.

John Carlos, the bronze medallist in the men's 200-metre race, and Tommie Smith, the gold medallist, performed the Black Power salute while on the podium to shine a spotlight on racial inequality in the U.S.

Both men were promptly kicked out of the Olympic Village by the U.S. Olympic committee and were suspended from the national team.

They were vilified at home, but Carlos says it took roughly three decades before their salute was seen as a brave act of civil rights and resistance.

U.S. runners Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos, right, extend their gloved fists skyward during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200-meter run at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. (Associated Press)

About the Author

Justin Li

Senior News Writer

Justin Li is a senior news writer. Prior to joining CBC News, he worked for the Toronto Star and wrote for various magazines in Toronto, where he's always lived.

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