Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

You could hear it from the moment Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before Friday night’s game against the Packers, the hot take cannons were being loaded and it didn’t take long to rain the heavy fire.

This is a complicated and nuanced issue, which means Twitter is the last place it should play out. But that’s where it did. And the takes were flying all weekend.

How about you beat out Blaine Gabbert before you start protesting? Keep politics out of sports. Playing sports is a privilege. If you hate America, why don’t you leave? And of course there was at least one Niner fan who burned his jersey. Because apparently the best thing to do when an athlete says or does something you don’t like, is get out some matches, lighter fluid, and a camera.

On Saturday, Kaepernick spoke to NFL.com and explained what was behind the move: “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. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Sitting during the national anthem, followed by those words, is an incredibly bold statement. And while I probably wouldn’t do it myself,  I respect his right to.

We always say that we want athletes to be different, to be themselves, and to speak their minds. But a lot of the same people who were praising Ali less than three months ago are crushing Kaepernick now.

When you do anything regarding the national anthem or the flag, you’re going to take heavy criticism. And Kaepernick did.

And it’s not like he’s not coming from a position of strength here. One thing to do this when you’ve just led your team to a Super Bowl, completely different to do it when you’re battling with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. He’s got more to lose by doing it now than before.

But he knew it and he did it anyway. And he didn’t just do it and duck out the back door. He answered questions about it yesterday for roughly 20 minutes and made it clear that he’s going to continue sitting. “I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. 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.”

When you listen to him speak, it’s evident this wasn’t a spur of the moment idea. This is an act of conscience: “At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being able to be in the NFL, making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that. I can’t look in the mirror and see people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I‘ve had. And say ‘You know what? I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch.”

Former teammate Alex Boone, whose brother was a Marine, ripped the decision saying “That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom. We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts.”

I completely get that. And Kaepernick does as well. As he said yesterday, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening.”

That’s the incredibly difficult thing about this conversation. Those are both valid points. The fact is, the flag is a powerful symbol that represents a lot of different things. And among those are the rights that we have as a people and also the people who gave their lives to protecting those rights. His right to express his opinion and your right to express yours.

There isn’t necessarily a wrong here. Actually, I take that back. If your response to what Kaepernick did and said was to hop on Twitter and hit him with racial slurs in his mentions, or photoshops of him looking like Osama Bin Laden, you are wrong. You completely missed the point and actually sort of made his point for him.

Similarly if you argue that because he’s got a fat contract, he shouldn’t be complaining. That makes zero sense? What, people who do well shouldn’t care about people who aren’t doing well? Just how selfish and silly does that sound?

As for why do it regarding the national anthem, we’re talking about it. It worked. The point of a protest isn’t to make everyone feel comfortable. It’s to make people feel uncomfortable. And to start a conversation. And that worked. If he doesn’t sit on Friday, we’re not talking about it on Monday. And no, it’s not going to solve racial injustice, inequality, and issues of police violence because a quarterback didn’t stand for the national anthem, but that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t do it. Just because you can’t fix everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Personally, I respect his stance. I’m not sure I would do what he did. But I respect his stance and totally support his right to do it.

If there’s anything that insults me about Kaepernick, is that he can’t beat out Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback’s job. Now THAT’S insulting.

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