As citizens of the United States of America, we are granted a great deal of liberties and freedoms. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to take full advantage of our right to freedom of speech and expression. At first, I was angered by Kaepernick’s decision to sit through the playing of the national anthem, but as the initial shock dissipated, I appreciated the reasoning.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview with National Football League Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
I believe that Kaepernick sees a current flaw in our country, and he has every right to peacefully protest it.
Even the NFL released a statement saying, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
Many Americans are highly upset over his recent protests, saying that he is a football player and he just needs to play. They are even calling him un-American for refusing to stand and respect our country. The issue here is that the public is being caught off guard because sports and politics are colliding.
“He’s combining this with people who are sports fans, who don’t expect to hear politics involved in this particular context,” said Ryan Medders, a professor of Political Communication. “And I think that’s the power of this moment right now, is that he is saying that he wants to be apart of this conversation and do his part in bringing some of these issues to people’s minds.”
We are getting lost in his action, and while I agree his action was disrespectful, we cannot lose sight over his overarching message.
“To me, this is something that has to change,” Kaepernick said in an article for Fox News. “When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick gained followers like teammate Eric Reid and Seattle Seahawk Jeremy Lane, but the most recent follower seemed to catch the most attention. Seattle Reign and well-known Team USA soccer player Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before her game.
“Quite honestly, being gay, I have stood with my hand over my heart during the national anthem and felt like I haven’t had my liberties protected, so I can absolutely sympathize with that feeling,” Rapinoe said in an interview with ESPN.
This sparked interest in the media because the protest no longer singled out just race concerns. Rapinoe has her own story, while also joining due to being disgusted by the backlash of Kaepernick’s protest.
The most interesting addition to the protest was tying it right back into the heart of the frustration. People are claiming that Kaepernick is un-American, yet a recent article for Fox News brought light to a situation that might force people to take a step back and think. Critics are saying how disrespectful it is to sit during the national anthem, but what about all of our veterans who fight for our country and upon returning to the states do not receive the help they deserve.
“Veterans are dying at war. The ones who survive, come home only to die waiting for proper health care,” Tamara Holder said in an article for Fox News. “Or they commit suicide – 22 veterans per day, to be exact; suffer from PTSD – 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to be exact; or end up homeless because they can’t find or can’t keep a job.”
Kaepernick’s message is not limited to people of color, but instead he urges us to think about what we stand for. Whether you take a stand against police brutality, oppression of color or unfair support of veterans, we are all fighting for the betterment of our country.
This protest urges us to start a conversation. What is the harm in that? So I challenge you to look past the act of kneeling, and instead look at the message behind it all.