Another blown-up media story and public outcry ensued after 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand up during the national anthem, one of our nation’s most patriotic songs, which plays before every NFL game.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: A man sat down during a song while the rest of the people around him stood up. That is all the factual evidence; everything else – the song’s meaning, the song’s history, the context and significance of the song being played at a football game – is all human interpretation and perception. And in a not so orthodox way, one can understand by listening to Kaepernick that by sitting down during the national anthem, he was honoring people, honoring those whom have suffered in his country.
Kaepernick claims he was making a statement, informing the NFL after the game that he wasn’t going “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He later specified that police brutality was one major concern he was referring to. “People aren’t being held accountable and that’s something that needs to change…this country stands for freedom, liberty, (and) justice for all and it’s not happening ‘for all’ right now.”
Props to Kaepernick for not giving the ole generic cliches “gotta take it one game at a time” or “we’re all looking to get better” during an interview and actually sparking viewer interest.
My favorite moment of Kaepernick’s interview was when he cleared up any doubt that he has a grudge against American troops. “I have great respect for men and women that have fought for this country,” he said. “I have family (and) I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom. They fight for the people. They fight for liberty and justice…for everyone.”
Furthermore, it’s like comparing apples and oranges to immediately assume that Kaepernick doesn’t respect our troops when he is concerned about oppressed groups of people. Two different topics: respecting those who serve in the military and protesting a nation that treats certain people unfairly. Apples and oranges.
He also mentioned another area for improvement: the lives of veterans. “Men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought for and have been murdered for the country they fought for. On our land. That’s not right…I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and affect change….I’m in a position where I can do that.”
Making these points should, at least, question critics who claim that Kaepernick doesn’t respect the military and should leave the United States. Our focus should shift from why we now hate Kaepernick, to what he is bringing attention to.
This is America, land of (what should be) the free. That freedom does not exclude sitting on a bench while a patriotic song plays. But before I go too off topic and into controversial territory (if I’m not already there), I’ll expose Kaepernick’s point further.
The real disrespect lies in the reality facing us today. Is it not disrespectful that black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police officers? Is it not disrespectful that the gender wage gap is at 20%? Is it not disrespectful that Native Americans have some of the highest rates of child mortality, teen pregnancy, suicide, poverty and addiction and are hardly receiving the help they deserve?
We were already conditioned many years ago to sing, or mumble, the pledge of allegiance before every class, presenting a pseudo-patriotic start to the day. It’s not like Kaepernick was waving a confederate flag or a swastika or chanting derogatory language towards America, or yelling about how much he hates the military. I don’t support disrespecting your country, but sitting down during a patriotic song that packs an emotional American punch is far from the worst thing Kaepernick could have done.
America has got to understand that we can maintain a balance between being thankful, happy and respectful for the country we live in, and possessing the hunger and drive necessary to improve and change the country for the better. You can love America and still want to create a more love-based, equal-based society. We’re ever-evolving social creatures and we’ve got a long way to go before we reach out full potential. Many times we have changed as a human race to produce a more favorable and just result.
Kaepernick continues to inspire athletes from all levels and leagues to initiate similar actions such as linking arms, kneeling, or holding up fists during the national anthem. You could even say that this form of anti-conformity/protest is becoming a national trend.
I think Kaepernick knows that his action won’t directly affect change, but it has certainly sparked discussion for change, and that is always a beneficial outcome. And for NFL players to do anything more is very difficult since their lives revolve around football 24/7. Now, let’s get back to football and judge what really matters: Kaepernick’s play on the field, or the sidelines for that matter.
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