Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ve likely at least heard of Colin Kaepernick.
In case you haven’t heard, NFL Player Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has been the subject of controversy during the offseason because of his decision to not stand during the National Anthem before football games. He is refusing to do so in silent protest of the recent violence against African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. He is also protesting to bring attention to the fact all Americans are not treated equally not just by law enforcement but by their fellow Americans.
It’s controversial to those against his actions due to their poorly veiled racism. First he sat on the bench but has since modified it to taking a knee on the sidelines while the Star Spangled Banner plays. He doesn’t speak or bring attention to what he does before, during or afterward. What he is doing is TAME compared to what white student athletes did during Bush 43’s second term. At a basketball game, a white high school player turned her back on the flag during the national anthem, angering vets who were in attendance.
What Kaepernick and those who’ve chosen to follow his lead are doing is simply excercising their right to free speech just like the white athlete I just referenced. Many white athletes also started doing this in solidarity but since that isn’t “newsworthy”, Corporate Media is dancing around talking about them.
All eyes were on the Denver Broncos’ Brandon Marshall (who is also a friend of Kaepernick), who took a knee during the national anthem at the start of the NFL’s first game of the season vs. the Carolina Panthers. One pundit said it right earlier this week in response to the “outrage” over the “disrespect” of the silent protests during the national anthem. If we’re going to complain about the form, this is actually the most respectful way to do it for the venue. He could have held a sign or just refused to be on the sidelines during the anthem, both of which would have incurred fines. All of the professional sports leagues–NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL–have no rules against taking a knee during the national anthem. The NBA and the NFL have both said on the record players are protected by free speech if they choose to do this.
If we’re going to complain about the fact that it is being done at all, the pundit gave some interesting food for thought: When you watch sports game on TV, do you stand with your hand over your heart during the national anthem? Chances are pretty good the answer is no. In such a case, why should it matter if ANYONE decides to kneel, sit or whatever when attending a live game? As long as they’re not trying to draw attention to themselves, it shouldn’t matter at all. When I attended a Red Sox home game in June, I stood for the national anthem but sat during the “Take me out ot the Ball Game” sing-a-long in the middle of the 7th inning. I just didn’t feel like standing, much to the annoyance of the family member I was at the home game with. I felt no pressure to stand either and I had no agenda or anything.
If we’re going to talk about showing Patriotism, these athletes are showing just that. Our nation’s military supposedly fought so they could have the freedom to just do that, yes? Athletes CAN’T do that in say, China or Iran for example. Those against these athletes excercising their right to free speech are the ones who don’t understand what patriotism is. Being a patriot means doing the unpopular thing when you are not happy with things as they currently are.
About 10 years ago, the idea of classes and schools reciting the pledge of alligiance was the subject of controversy. Those who objected to the traditional practice did so on political and religious grounds, which I agree with. I feel like if you recite the pledge of alligiance or the national anthem with the flag out of “tradition”, you’re just going through the motions. It only means something to you if it means something to you if that makes sense and THAT is the point of doing it. If it doesn’t mean the same to the guy next to you or the vet two rows behind you as it does for you, it’s none of your business.
Those worried about the National Anthem being phased out of nationally televised games can relax: As long as the Pentagon’s deal with all the sports leagues remains, that will always happen. In short, the U.S. Military gets free advertising at sporting events in exchange for being present during the pre-game ceremony. These demonstrations will do NOTHING to change that.