It’s not uncommon for a professional athlete to say or do something that puts them in the national spotlight. Recently during a pre-season football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not stand for the national anthem.
Kaepernick told NFL Media after the game, “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.”
As with most divisive issues, there are two clear sides: those who support Colin Kaepernick’s right to not stand during the national anthem, and those who are upset that Colin Kaepernick failed to show proper reverence to the theme song of this nation. The Washington Post reported “A fan who calls himself Nate3914 set fire to a Kaepernick jersey and told the quarterback ‘if you don’t love our country, get the [expletive] out of it. You should never play another down in the NFL. Move to Canada.’”
The NFL issued a statement saying that players are “encouraged but not required” to stand for the national anthem, and 49ers coach Chip Kelly said, “We recognize his right to do that. It’s not our right to tell him not to do something.”
Many thought the social media backlash would cause Kaepernick to apologize for his supposed indiscretion and promise to always stand during the national anthem. They would be wrong. Kaepernick doubled-down and told reporters “I’ll continue to sit.”
Despite what some, like Nate3914, want to believe, aside from eating a hot dog and apple pie whilst playing baseball with a flock of bald eagles, Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem is one of the most American things one can do. From an early age we’re told that we have the right to peacefully protest and that governments exist with the consent of the governed. Colin Kaepernick decided to exercise his right of peaceful protest to express his dissent with the lack of accountability for the hundreds of people killed by police each year. Kaepernick told NFL Media, “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Suzy Kassem once said, “Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone.” I only hope that Colin Kaepernick does not have to stand alone while he remains seated.