Take a Knee

By | June 10, 2019

[June 10, 2019] Last year while visiting Arlington National Cemetery, I came upon a group of U.S. Marines who had taken a knee next to the grave of their Company Commander who had been killed in battle. They were showing their respect for the man who had saved them in 2004 at the Second Battle of Fallujah.

To take a knee is an axiom that’s been around for centuries. Mainly it has been used by military personnel, as well as, players on competitive team-sports. Its main meaning is to rest, but it also means to stay alert. When Infantrymen on a forced march are told to take a knee, they know that they do so to rest while remaining on the lookout for the enemy.

Lately, the term has been bastardized by players in the U.S. National Football League. They say they are taking a knee to stand against racism. Of course, that is not completely true as they do so during the playing of the National Anthem. It is not my intent today to dredge up the disrespect shown by those players. I want to set the record straight about the meaning and history of the idea.

I was fortunate to learn much from my service in the U.S. Army. One of those things you learn while in any service to your countrymen or community, is to show respect for others. Respect is an important concept because it involves a deep human need; the need to trust. All social relationships are predicated on trust. It is particularly important to understand those traits of a trustworthy leader.

The Marines I witnessed kneeling at the grave maker were showing their respect and also their admiration for a man who was part of their band of brothers. Such relationships are rare in modern societies and rarer in any culture that is lead by divisive leaders. Military personnel are trained to understand and practice respect in many ways. These Marines understood.

Respect and trust are, and will always be, the bedrock of a stable, fair, and honest society. When we learn to disregard that fact and practice something else, we have a problem not easily resolved.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Take a Knee

  1. Karren Patenaude

    I needed to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have got you book-marked to look at new stuff you post…

  2. Georgie M.

    Hi, Gen Satterfield. I enjoyed your article.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Me too. Keep those articles coming our way.

  3. Max Foster

    “Take a knee” as an army saying may have been hijacked by the ignorant but it doesn’t take away the respect for soldiers and any of our first responders. The respect for those who have misused it to show their disrespect for America is at a rock bottom. That is where it should stay.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      I agree with you, Max. As always, thanks for making a great point.

  4. Kenny Foster

    Great article, Gen. Satterfield …. thank you. Also, a short note to say that I enjoyed your series with a number of Guest Bloggers.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    If you simply listen to what people are saying, it is obvious that there is little respect for those who disrespect America (or for that matter their own country). Doing such things is stupid beyond belief. Don’t get intertwined in all this social “clutter.” My dad used to say “don’t wrestle with pigs, you only get dirty and the pig loves it.” In other words, you can’t win that fight. Use it properly and move on.

    1. Xerxes I

      I agree with the author of this article. The meaning may be changing (it originally appeared in the 1960s US Army) and now being used by football players.

      1. Scotty Bush

        Amazing how quickly things can change. But let’s not get hung up on spoiled adult children.

      2. Eric Coda

        Good point, Xerxes. However, the fact that we have a changing meaning doesn’t mean we just accept it for what it is. We should continue to use the axiom to ‘take a knee’ for what its original meaning and make sure we are clearly communicating what that means. We should emphatically distinguish ourselves from spoiled adult children (like NFL football players). Nuff said! 🙂

  6. The Kid 1945

    I started my day out relaxing a while and read your leadership blog post. Now, I’m hopping mad about the immature football players, their coaches and owners. Just shoot yourself in the foot and when called on it, shoot themselves in the foot several more times. Albert Einstein had a few words to say about that.

  7. Bryan Lee

    Good article….thanks.
    Take a knee = respect, rest, awareness
    I could not have said it better.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      One of the oddities of the weekend’s uproar over players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest is that “taking a knee” is a military tradition, especially in the Army. I’ve heard it used most often as a way of pausing, taking a breather, and stepping back to consider the situation.

  8. Janna Faulkner

    If you Google ‘take a knee’, all you will find is stuff about the US National Football Team. Nothing about its real meaning. Too bad spoiled football players (really just grown children who are spoiled rotten) are too stupid to notice.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Spoiled is an understatement. While many are good people, I’ve found that rich people with too much time on their hands can begin to think they are morally superior to everyone else. Oh, there is a name for that … hubris.

      1. Harry B. Donner

        The Bible warned us about it and now the results are starting to come to fruition.

    2. Billy Kenningston

      Concur. This is just too much to watch as they continue to double down on being outrageous. I also fault the owners and coaches. That is why football sports fans have been dropping radically in numbers. I thought the concussion issue would kill football but it appears the players themselves with their childish actions are doing it.

  9. Army Captain

    You are spot-on with your points today. Take a knee, as a military concept, has been misconstrued and misunderstood – some purposefully.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      I agree. A good idea was taken and completely reversed. Respect now equals disrespect. How tragic. It also shows that we should all stand up to stupidity and call it for what it is when we see it.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      Good to see you up early this morning, Army Captain. I always look forward to reading your early comments.

      1. Jonnie the Bart

        Good to hear from you again, Yusaf. I too look forward to Army Captain’s comments. I know he is a busy guy so it is always helpful when he confirms what is here from his personal perspective and military experience.

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