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Music historian on race and the national anthem

Flickr user Dave Hogg/Flickr
People raise the flag over Ford Field as the national anthem kicks off a Lion's game.

There’s more than football happening at tonight’s NFL pre-season game in San Diego.

It will be the first time 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernik will play since refusing to stand for the national anthem.

Kaepernik said he’s taking this action to protest racism in a country he said oppresses black people and people of color.

This protest is the newest chapter in the long-evolving history of our country’s national anthem. And it’s bringing fourth fresh criticism that the national anthem is, itself, racist.

University of Michigan music history professor Mark Clague disagrees, though he’s grateful to critics like Kaepernik for calling attention to the issue.

“It’s a complex issue and I don’t mean to belittle that in any way,” Clague said. “But I do think that the question of the third verse, in particular the phrase ‘hirelings and slaves’ that’s getting people upset, is being blown out of proportion in the sense that I don’t think the song is any way in racist."

To hear Clague's explanation of the history behind this verse, listen above.

GUEST Mark Clague is a musicologist and a professor of music history at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. He wrote an opinion piece called “‘Star-Spangled Banner’ critics miss the point” for CNN and is currently writing a book about the “Star Spangled Banner.”

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