A Virginia firefighter sparked a moment of unity Friday when he surprised fellow patrons at a local barbecue joint by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The unnamed, uniformed officer stood toward the entrance of the Mission BBQ restaurant, a small chain based in Maryland, and performed the national anthem on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“So this just happened at Mission BBQ today,” wrote one restaurant-goer.
The firefighter’s performance comes amid intense national unrest over perceived systemic injustices carried out by law enforcement officers against minorities.
The national anthem has been at the center of controversy since 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee as the patriotic song was performed before the start of a game. At the time, the athlete said he was taking the action to call attention to racial injustice.
On Thursday, the controversy reared its head once again.
Right before a pre-recorded rendition of anthem began to play, members of the Kansas City Chiefs locked arms as a show of unity. Moments later, as the song began, Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor took a knee and raised his fist in the air while two of his teammates placed their hands on his shoulders.
In an even more blatant display, the Chiefs’ competitors — the Houston Texans — just remained in their locker rooms for the duration of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a display that took place on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11.
Many of the 17,000 masked fans present for the game booed the teams.