Friday night, San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before an NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. After the game, Kaepernick was up front and transparent about the motivation for his refusal to stand. Kaepernick told NFL network, “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, it’s bigger than football, 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.”
Kaepernick did what many in his position, African-American or otherwise, shy away from—he took a stand. Not for an issue that everyone agrees on like ending domestic violence either, but a polarizing one—police brutality and race. Kaepernick’s comments refer to the inequality people of color face every day and numerous accounts of fatal shootings of unarmed people Black people at the hands of police.
Of course, taking a stand on such a raw and sensitive issue will cause an uproar and prompt polarizing responses. While some praised Kaepernick and his political stance, others disapproved of his actions and felt they were disrespectful.
I will be STANDING during the National Anthem tonight. Thank you to ALL (Gender,Race,Religion)that put your lives on the line for that flag
— Justin Pugh (@JustinPugh) August 27, 2016
It blows my mind how many people hate the country they live in.
— T.J. Yates (@TJ_Yates) August 27, 2016
— Matthew Hasselbeck (@Hasselbeck) August 27, 2016
— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) August 27, 2016
Kapernick is well within his rights to do what he did. I’m not saying I agree but I do understand why he felt morally obligated in his acts.
— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) August 27, 2016
the flag represents freedom. the freedom to choose to stand or not. that’s what makes this country beautiful. … https://t.co/Ev5D9ACe78
— Feeno (@ArianFoster) August 27, 2016
Whether you agree or disagree with Kaepernick’s choice to protest during the national anthem, one thing isn’t debatable, his right to do so. As an African-American living in this country, I see and feel the same pain as Kaepernick as we continue to struggle with race relations and systematic oppression as a nation. Therefore, I understand his frustration and desire to take a stand, which I commend him for.
I’m also hyper-aware how such an unpatriotic stance could prompt some of the negative criticism Kaepernick is receiving. However, I’d urge some of his critics to understand that just because he made an unpatriotic gesture, does not make him anti-America. In fact, it means he cares about this country enough to bring more awareness to its most outstanding issue. For someone to imply Kaepernick must hate the country he lives in is not only being lazy and unfair but quite tone deaf. But then again, anyone who actually disagrees with his intent is tone deaf.
Instead of being just as upset as Kaepernick is over police brutality, which constitutes as an American issue, people are more upset with his method of righting systemic wrongs. If people truly only disagreed with the way he protested, why demonize him for trying? Instead, they should suggest other methods to protest this issue in a more constructive way.
Shunning Kaepernick only contributes to oppression. It says, “Stop, this behavior is bad and unacceptable.”, which ends the conversation there, but the conversation does not need to end. The conversation looks like it is just beginning, which is the point. It’s the reason Kaepernick was willing to take the stand he did, and why he is ignoring the critics. People need to feel a little uncomfortable and they need to question if all Americans are treated equally and fairly under the law.
Like it or not, Kaepernick is using his platform the way he knows how, to bring light to issues that should concern everyone in this country. In choosing to sit, Kaepernick is embodying the American spirit.