Friday August 26th at Levi’s Stadium was a day of NFL infamy. Although not playing that day, Colin Kaepernick sat amongst his teammates on the bench through the whole game, most notably during the National Anthem.
In a post game interview, Kaepernick made it clear why he was sitting out on the anthem:
“There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for: freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now. Yes. I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed.”
It may have seemed like Kaepernick’s act of sitting was being unpatriotic and a nuisance to his team and the NFL, but after the interview it was there for everyone to analyze. It was not him screaming radical statements, or him being ignorant or uninformed. It was an American athlete using his spotlight to bring to attention a problem in this country in the same vein as Muhammad Ali during the Vietnam War or Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Kaepernick’s reasoning was simple. As an American who is also half-black, he believes that there is inequality in how law enforcement treats African-Americans and other minorities. He would not stand for a flag that represents freedom and equality but does not practice what it preaches amongst all its citizens. He was concise, and well thought-out in his messaging. It was not him screaming radical statements, or him being ignorant or uninformed. He is still proud of being an American, he just isn’t happy about how some groups are treating others.
Even with this clarification, he started a wave of opinions for his actions, and negative views against him.
Some of the bad is coming from pro-military folks saying he was out of line and un-American. The problem with this is they fail to see that Kaepernick acknowledged that angle. “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country.. Men and women that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by contributions they have made. So I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way.”
One interesting thing is the development of twitter hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick on Tuesday August 30th, which pushed back against the hate. Veterans of many military branches let themselves be known as supporters of his freedom of speech and reluctance to stand, even if they didn’t all agree with everything the 49ers quarterback had said. One of the most publicized tweets was of Army Vet and writer Charles Clymer, who said “Don’t use my service–or that of any veteran–to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch.”
The brilliance of Kaepernick’s action, whether he planned it to this extent, was that people are talking. Citizens of all types, of all ethnicities and positions in life are bringing their opinion to the table, whether they care about the NFL or not. Sports fans, veterans and anyone really are having a conversation surrounding the idea of what makes someone an American.
That a person in this country has the right to decline to such American traditions as a flag ceremony at a sporting event if they feel the country is not doing its job is okay. It’s what makes this such a nation of discussion and freedom. To disagree with your government is as American as Apple pie.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump says America needs to be fixed, and now so does this NFL athlete. But unlike Trump he is demonized specifically because of the issues he feels need to be fix; And because of the color of his skin, or half of it if you want to get specific.