The biggest news out of this weekend’s slate of preseason NFL football came before a game even began. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem and now the player is under fire.
Sports fans aren’t exactly crazy about having politics crammed into their sporting events. To many fans, sports acts as a means of escape from the political landscape.
However, sometimes (and more often than you’d think) they merge.
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They did so this past Friday night when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the team’s exhibition tilt against the Green Bay Packers.
Miami Dolphins fans may remember Kaepernick for wearing some apparel of their favorite team last offseason which he caught plenty of flak for. But whatever controversy those images stirred last year pale in comparison to Kaepernick’s latest foray.
"“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 told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”"
By not standing during the national anthem and commenting on why he refused to do so, Kaepernick has fueled anger among those who have deemed his actions and words insulting to the country and those who have served it.
Kaepernick, who hasn’t to stood during the anthem in at least one other preseason game, does so in protest of what he perceives to be wrongdoings against the African American and other minority communities.
Instead of sparking a discussion about that issue, some have taken umbrage with the means of Kaepernick’s protest. Some have decided to burn Kaepernick jerseys while others have questioned Kaepernick’s loyalty to the United States or have taken to social media to insult him (warning this link leads to a source with offensive language).
Another thing making its rounds through social media is a meme of a double amputee Marine lifting himself out of his wheelchair during the national anthem before a Louisian State University basketball game.
But here’s the thing, no soldier, sailor, marine or airman has ever served this country to defend the idea of forcing everyone to stand during the Star Spangled Banner before a sporting event. They serve to defend the freedom of American citizens to not do so if they so choose.
Kaepernick is an American citizen. He has the right to protest in any manner he wishes that does not and will not bring harm or damage to another. It’s the same freedom his detractors enjoy.
This is a country built on freedom of expression. To say that Kaepernick needs to shut up and stand during the national anthem violates the freedoms that every man and woman whose every put on a uniform has served to uphold.
If Kaepernick feels he needs to do something to give a voice to those he feels are voiceless, he has every right to do so. To question that is to question your basic right as an American to protest.
You don’t have to agree with his methods. That’s your right too. But before you judge the quarterback too swiftly, ask yourself: Do you stand every time you hear the national anthem? Do you stand in your home or at the local pub? How about when you are in the hallway or the lobby of the stadium, do you stop moving and stand still during the national anthem? Then ask yourself this, what’s the difference?
Records of when the Star Bangled Banner began as a pregame ritual are spotty. It could date back as far as the 1890s but it is mostly recognized as having become a fixture in 1918.
However, in 1973 the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers decided to play “God Bless America” instead of the national anthem. Patriotism was fading and fans seemed disillusioned by the Star Spangled Banner. The organization wanted to change that.
Even with those intentions, people were upset when they choose to do that. Some even protested the switch.
Today, they use the song as a good luck charm and everyone has long forgotten why it was a problem. Instead, most Flyers fans have embraced the song as a part of the team’s tradition.
Even still, God Bless America is a patriotic song and the playing of any such music before a game can be deciphered as a political maneuver. Some would argue it serves only to act as give its audience an intense feeling of patriotism. Others might say it serves as a means to honor the country and its service members. But there are politics in both.
In that regard, all Kaepernick did was counter one political move with another.
How is that any different what the late-Muhammad Ali did in the 1970s?
So be mad at Kaepernick for not standing during the national anthem if you wish. That’s your right and no one can take that away. But remember, he also has the right to protest. You don’t have to agree with it, but some do. That’s all a part of being an American and having the freedoms the anthem and the flag represent.