Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taking a stand: On one knee with Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick (center) kneeled during the playing of the national
anthem before the San Francisco 49ers' preseason game at San Diego.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick broke no NFL rules for refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem before each of his team's recent pre-season games. While pro football players are encouraged to stand, they are not required. 

In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Kaepernick said: "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."

During the 49ers' final pre-season game last Thursday at San Diego, Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reed were observed side by side on one knee during the national anthem. The quarterback said he chose to kneel rather than sit "to show more respect for the men and women for fight for the country."

Kaepernick's actions have been criticized by many as being disrespectful to the United States. "Once again, I'm not anti-American," Kaepernick said last Thursday. "I love America. I love people. That's why I am doing this. I want to help make America better. I think having these conversations helps everybody have a better understanding of where everybody is coming from."

Recently, Kaepernick sat down for a lengthy, 18-minute interview with reporters that allowed the embattled athlete a chance to explain his thinking on the matter, which has been the subject of much discussion in both the news and sports sections of major newspapers across the country, on cable news channels, as well as countless hours devoted to the topic on sports talk radio.


Kaepernick will start the 2016 season as his team's second-string quarterback, which he would have been regardless of his recent political activism. He is recovering from an extensive injury which sidelined him for much of last season. If he loses his job and is cut by the 49ers, it will be because of his playing merits not his personal decision to not stand during the national anthem. He has publicly said that the reason for sitting (or in the case of last week taking a knee) through the anthem is a show of protest against racial inequality. 

According to Kaepernick, who is biracial and was adopted by white parents, he said he would not honor a song "nor show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

Last week, former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an insightful opinion piece that was published in the Washington Post in which he suggested that insulting Kaepernick says more about our patriotism than his. He suggests we should let athletes love their country in their own ways.

"The discussion of the nuances of patriotism is especially important right now, with Trump and Clinton supporters each righteously claiming ownership of the 'most patriotic' label," wrote Abdul-Jabbar. "Patriotism isn't just getting teary-eyed on the Fourth of July or choked up at war memorials. It's supporting what the Fourth of July celebrates and what those war memorials commemorate: the U.S. Constitution's insistence that all people should have the same rights and opportunities and that it is the obligation of the government to make that happen. When the government fails in those obligations, it is the responsibility of patriots to speak up and remind them of their duty."

On Sunday, U.S. international soccer star and Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before her team's match against the Chicago Red Stars in a show of solidarity for Kaepernick. Afterwards, she said her action "was very intentional," and said she plans to continue kneeling before the anthem for the rest of the season.

Rapinoe told American Soccer Now that her gesture was a "little nod to Kaepernick and everything he's standing for now.

"I think it's actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn't. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this county."

Further, Rapinoe said: "Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. (The gesture) was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation about it.

"It's important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don't need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that's really powerful."

Having the President's back is something that's really powerful, too. 

On Monday, speaking at a news conference in Hangzhou, China, where he's attending a meeting of Group of 20 countries, President Obama said the 49ers quarterback was "exercising his constitutional right" by refusing to stand during the national anthem. He cited a long history of sports figures who have made political statements. 

"I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about," said President Obama. "And if nothing else, what he's done is he's generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.

"There are a lot of ways you can do it. As a general matter, when it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us – that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are."

I support Colin Kaepernick's right to protest. I respect a person's ability to act according to their conscience. Looking back, Rosa Parks sat down on a public bus to protest discrimination, and Gandhi walked across India in protest of discrimination. So, why not Kaepernick sitting down during the national anthem in protest of discrimination? After all, when did a non-violent, non-disruptive, non-coercive personal protest against injustice in the United States suddenly become un-American?

Photo: Courtesy of Google Images.

No comments:

Post a Comment