San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has drawn criticism for his refusal to stand during the national anthem before games. He has described this action as a protest against what he feels is systematic racism in the police system, and the oppression of minorities in America.
Many people have taken offense to Kaepernick’s protest. From what I can tell, most are offended for one (or both) of the following reasons:
- As an athlete paid millions to play a game, Kaepernick has no reason to feel oppressed.
- By not standing during the national anthem, he’s disrespecting the nation, and by extension, the military who fight to protect the nation.
I will take a closer look at both of these.
He has no reason to feel oppressed
As a white man, I really can’t speak about what it’s like to live as a person of color in America, so I find it strange that so many of my fellow white people seem to have strong opinions on the subject. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Kaepernick – who is mixed race – knows a lot more about how minorities are treated in America.
Yes, Kaepernick is wealthy and famous. In some ways, that probably makes his life better than most people’s. But money can’t buy everything, and being rich and famous doesn’t shield people from racism. Don’t believe me? Check out Kaepernick’s Twitter feed before this saga began.
Kaepernick isn’t the first celebrity to feel this way. I believe Kanye West summed up the situation in his song “All Falls Down:”
We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we a’stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n**** in a coupe
Even if you think Kapernick is full of crap and has never personally experienced racism, it’s admirable that he’s sticking up for those less fortunate than himself. I believe that race relations in America aren’t where they should be, and there likely is still some oppression of minorities. Throughout history, oppression generally hasn’t ended until those who are not oppressed stand up (or in this case, sit down) to support those who are.
He is disrespecting the country and military
Many people have taken issue with Kaepernick’s form of protest. They believe that by sitting during the national anthem, he’s disrespecting all of America.
I find it sadly ironic that many of the same people shouting “How dare Kaepernick disrespect America like that? He should get out if he thinks it’s so awful!” are the same ones who support the presidential candidate whose entire platform is that the country is in chaos and we need to “Make America Great Again.”
You can love something and still criticize it. For instance, I love my wife dearly, but as she’ll attest, I will also offer some criticisms at times. It doesn’t mean I want a divorce, it just means there might be a few things I might want to change.
I’m not sure if sitting for the national anthem is the best way to bring attention to his cause. On the other hand, if you want to effectively protest, you’ve got to do it in a way that makes people take notice, and Kaepernick has certainly achieved that.
Some critics say that his form of protest has been counterproductive, because people are talking more about the protest than the cause. Most of the conversation has indeed been about the protest, but there has also been a lot of talk about systematic racism and the police as well. It’s similar to how I felt about the Ice Bucket Challenge from a couple years back. If you can get more people talking about an issue, it should be viewed as a win.
I understand taking offense at Kaepernick’s actions, but it bothers me the way some Kaepernick critics have made his protest about the military. They claim that by not standing during the national anthem, he is disrespecting everyone who ever fought to protect the nation.
This feels somewhat disingenuous to me. It feels like people who didn’t like Kaepernick’s protest for whatever reason sought a way to make sure their viewpoint held the high moral ground. “If you’re against me, you’re against the military!”
I realize that Americans tend to get more patriotic during times of war, but when did the national anthem become a military theme? Is that all our national anthem and flag really represent to people – our ability to fight wars?
You may not like what Kaepernick has to say or how he’s saying it, but if we don’t allow him to do it, then our military truly is fighting for nothing. In some countries, Kaepernick would likely be jailed for such a protest. In America, he’s free to speak his mind.
As I often do, I’ll reference the tome of wisdom know as the G.I.Joe comic book. In issue 39 (Walk Through the Jungle), the Joes are sent to rescue a civil rights activist notorious for criticizing the military. A couple of the Joes voice displeasure in risking their lives to help someone who opposes what they do. Stalker, the group’s leader puts them in their place:
Get this through your head! We’re not fighting to have everybody think the way we do, we’re fighting so that people can think whatever they want! Even if they don’t agree with us!
As for those who are calling Kaepernick a coward, I think that is way off base.
Kaepernick is a coward, he accomplishes nothing while whining from his perch of privilege. Pat Tilman is a hero.. https://t.co/nmsPJLXdKg
— Western_Veteran (@Western_Veteran) August 28, 2016
is a coward, and it’s sad that men and women lay their lives on the line to protect this mans freedom to be an idiot.
— Christian Dearborn (@cmoorpark22) August 27, 2016
Yes, it is extremely brave to serve in the military. It might be the bravest action an American can take. But we should remember that it isn’t the only way to display bravery.
Kaepernick realizes that he may be destroying his career. He’s not guaranteed to make the 49ers, and becoming a “distraction” is often a good way to get cut from a team. It also seems unlikely that another team would pick him up this season unless truly desperate. To put his career at risk in order to stand up for a cause he believes in seems like a brave act to me.
Much like Kaepernick has the right to remain seated, you have the right to disagree with him or his method of protest. But if you automatically dismiss his message without actually taking the time to consider what he’s trying to say, then maybe you’re the one who is acting in an unpatriotic fashion.