Much has been said …
Much has been said about Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest in sitting during the national anthem. Some applaud his actions as conscience-driven while others angrily condemn him as un-American and assert his actions should be punished. This ongoing story has been divisive and it has stirred up much debate and vitriol.
Can we find any common ground with this issue, or will it just further entrench both sides? Has or will anything positive come of Kaepernick’s actions?
This all began on August 26th during a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers when Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose to sit down during the playing of the national anthem.
In an interview after the game, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. and adding that he would continue to protest until he feels like “[the American flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent.”
On September 1, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the national anthem rather than sit as he did in their previous games. He said he was trying to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting.
On Sept 12th, Kaepernick again knelt during the team’s season opener on “Monday Night Football.”
The team’s response seems appropriate. “The national anthem … is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
“When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent in this country, I’ll stand,” Kaepernick said.
Kaepernick has not been alone in this manner of protest. Some of his teammates have joined him. Players on other teams and in other sports have protested in similar spirit or fashion. Kaepernick’s jersey became the top-selling jersey on the NFL’s official shop website. Musicians have performed wearing Kaepernick’s jerseys.
Military veterans have also voiced support using the social media hashtag “veterans for Kaepernick.”
There have also been broad backlash. Fans have posted videos of them burning Kaepernick’s jerseys. Former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason called Kaepernick’s actions “an embarrassment.” An anonymous NFL executive called Kaepernick “a traitor.”
American Family Association President, Tim Wildmon, said, “The NFL is wholeheartedly disregarding the code that sets the standard for how individuals should conduct themselves during the national anthem.”
Let’s have a look at that code.
In 1923 the National Flag Conference established the still observed set of rules governing the treatment and observation of the U.S. Flag. It includes the following apparently frequently forgotten rules.
It seems that some people only obey or even understand the code only when it convenient for them.
How is beer pong more patriotic than protest?
American Family Association President, Tim Wildmon, said, “The NFL’s true colors are emerging as a progressive, left-leaning organization that is attempting to appear fair, neutral and accommodating when, in actuality, the league is enabling activists, individuals and groups that disrespect the U.S.A.”
Our country has its roots in protest and dissent. Is activism not patriotic? Who disrespects our flag more, the business using it to sell products or the man kneeling in protest of what he calls tyranny? What disrespects our flag more, playing beer pong on it, eating greasy burgers off it, pulling it out of your sweat ass cheeks, or risking your very high-paying career to stand by your principles?
I often feel a tremendous welling of emotion when it comes to The Flag. One of my favorite movies is The Postman, from Kevin Costner. Not a popular movie. There’s a scene where Costner, about to win the big fight with the big bad, says, “I believe in the United States of America!” That scene brings me to tears. I’m not kidding. I’ve always considered myself a patriot. What I love about the USA is the spirit of liberty and compassion.
But it’s hard to say the word “patriot” in a time when the word is used to manipulate people’s passions. It’s hard to use the word when it is used in vain so frequently that its meaning carries ugly connotations.
There is no liberty in a forced patriotism. There is no liberty in punishment for legal, silent, honest, earnest protest. What Kaepernick is doing is legal and, if I’m to understand everything that those who condemn him claim, assured by soldiers who fought for our freedoms.
Demographically speaking, many of the people that so angrily condemn Kaepernick also collect, perhaps hoard, guns partly to defend themselves against a tyrannical government. How is what Kaepernick doing worse than preparing to take up arms against the government? They emotionally support freedom from our government.
Many of these same people support Donald Trump, a man who daily literally asserts that he will make America the great nation it once was. He talks so strongly about how America has lost its way.
People who have no real understanding of how to treat the flag and why those rules are in place condemn Kaepernick for his silent protest. They want him to stand up, shut up, and put his hand on his heart merely because his actions offend them. These same people condemn the “left wing” for being politically correct and constantly offended, but nothing screams “be politically correct” more than the argument that he should follow a strict code of conduct or be literally punished.
Fighting for America
The flag represents freedom and liberty and a robust nation. When America is strongest, it is strong because it can bear dissent. Protest and sitting during a pledge is more within the spirit of our founders than forced patriotism could ever be. Forced nationalism is what we condemned Germany and Russia for, what we condemn ISIS for.
Teri Johnson, a Gold Star mother who lost her son, Sgt. Joseph Johnson, in an IED attack in Afghanistan in 2010, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “When I read that he said he couldn’t stand for a flag that he didn’t have pride in … right away, my heart kind of stopped… When I look at the flag, I see the best of us.”
Tapper asked Johnson: “There are also grieving moms because their sons were innocently and wrongly killed by law enforcement … if one of them were here and said ‘Hey, Kaepernick wasn’t standing up against your son, he was standing up for my son,’ what would you say to that?”
Johnson said she would reply, “Yes, you have the right to sit down. Sitting down is something that is easy to do. But standing up and stepping forward is something that’s hard to do. And what I would like to see, if you really see oppression when you look at the flag, then make it your mission to be proud of it. Do something. Make a difference, so that when you look at that flag, you show pride and you feel hope and possibilities.”
Sitting down is not easy to do when you do it in front of millions of Americans, risk your career, invite the scorn and hatred of peers and fans, and must daily defend and explain your actions.
Mrs. Johnson says, “yes, you have a right to sit down.” She says, “I would like to see [that you] Make a difference, so that when you look at that flag, you show pride and you feel hope and possibilities.”
Her son fought for and died for his freedom. Think about it folks. It’s not just freedom from our enemies; It’s freedom within our borders and from our government.
Mrs. Johnson is using her voice to say her piece. Her position as a Gold Star mother has afforded her this opportunity to speak. Colin Kaepernick is doing quite the same thing. He is using his notoriety and risking his career and inviting constant attacks for something that does for others.
“This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way. This is because 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 effect change,” Kaepernick told reporters in a press conference on August 28. “So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
She Mrs. Johnson wants Kaepernick to make a difference so he can be proud of his country. She should be reassured that he is doing exactly that.