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In case you missed it San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick announced last week that he would be leaving the team to spend the 2016 NFL season fighting under the black flag of ISIS.
Well, not really. Actually, he refused to stand during the national anthem ahead of the Niners’ preseason game against Green Bay.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”
How dare he!? How dare he decline to engage in a generally meaningless display of pseudo-patriotism before a pre-season NFL game?
At least I’m guessing that’s what was going through the heads of everyone who took to social media to rip the QB for using his constitutionally protected right to sit down – while we stand and listen to someone butcher a song a about a colorful piece of cloth – in protest of what he believes to be his country’s shortcomings.
Here’s a sample of the uneducated vitriol that popped up on Facebook following the incident.
(Note: These comments were copied directly from Facebook and were not altered in any way)
“If he wants to sit during the national anthem then let him sit the entire season out!! Or more!!!”
(That’s right. You should absolutely have your livelihood targeted because of a political opinion, or constitutionally protected protest. That’s the America we should all want to live in!)
Pretty sure the money they pay him says “Unites States Of America” on it, if he wants to protest the USA, he should do it by having nothing to do with anything that has the US on it, otherwise he just a huge hypocrite.
(Another constitutional scholar weighs in. Indeed I distinctly remember learning in 8th grade social studies that if I am paid in U.S. currency, I forfeit the right to peacefully protest. It was an important lesson, wish someone had told Colin about it.)
NASCAR drivers are fined for saying/doing things deemed inappropriate even a slip of the tongue. Ok NFL I am sure the Disabled Vets could use $.
(Yes, this man engaged in a form of peaceful protest. The only answer is punitive action.)
Maybe we can get Laurence Taylor to come out of retirement and give Colin a reason not to be standing up, Joe Theismann style…
(Advocating violence in the face of a peaceful protest, what better way to prove this America hater wrong…oh by the way LT spelled his name with a ‘W’ not a ‘U’ but this is not time for details, after all a grown man decided to sit down during a song)
And it went on and on like that. Pretty much everywhere you looked there were hot takes coming in from armchair patriots who equate “loving America” to popping on some Toby Keith, cracking a few lukewarm Busch lights, and getting all bleary eyed about the troops.
So as one of those troops it is incumbent upon me to say please, please remove your heads your collective colons.
This idea that American troops die for the flag is absolutely absurd. Anyone who joins the military to fight and die for a piece of cloth has made an absolute waste of their precious mortality, and has probably watched The Patriot a few too many times.
Recite the following paragraph out loud real quickly:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Now please point to the portion of that oath that mentions the flag or national anthem…Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If you can’t find it, it’s because it’s not there. What we do defend when we go down range is the U.S. Constitution. If you haven’t checked out the document lately I’d recommend a brief reading. It’s got all this really cool stuff in there designed to protect individual liberties – things like free speech, free assembly, the right to bear arms, you know all the stuff that makes America so special.
From a vet to the masses; it seems trivial for that sacrifice to be reduced to 90 seconds of standing still before a game that doesn’t even have playoff implications.
Personally, I feel it’s far more patriotic to risk ones public reputation, and potentially large sums of money to stage a public protest in hopes that the country will continue to improve on and recognize the ideals that make us great – but more on that later.
First a brief history of the anthem as it correlates to sports and the condition of black folks in America.
The lyrics come from the poem The Defence of Fort M’Henry written in 1814. At that time it was still legal and quite commonplace to own black people, and employ them sans paychecks.
The song is believed to have first been performed prior to a sporting event in 1897, at an opening day game played in Philadelphia – a game that Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr, Barry Bonds, Mookie Wilson, and a host of other legendary ball players would not have been allowed to participate in due to the pigment in their skin. It was also a time when many states had laws on the books designed to keep blacks out of the voting booth.
‘The Banner’ was made the national anthem in 1931, when blacks were no longer owned by white people but still couldn’t use the same bathrooms or water fountains as their Caucasian countrymen. If the song was performed before a baseball game that season, Jackie Robinson still wouldn’t have been allowed to set foot on the diamond.
It would be over three decades from that time until the ink was dry on the civil rights act of 1964, but as past legislation had shown the black community – paperwork didn’t exactly equal parity.
In the years since 1964, we’ve seen Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for their raised fist protest (which initially caused the men to be criticized and ostracized), and Muhammad Ali evolve into a national treasure in spite of years of being treated like a national embarrassment for his protest of the Vietnam War.
It seems then, that a few people need to rethink their knee-jerk reactions to Kaepernick’s protest.
Even service members have engaged in such protests. In 1989, a group of Vietnam veterans torched an American flag in protest of an anti-desecration law.
“Liberty needs special protection, not its symbol, the flag,” ACLU Seattle Director, Kathleen Taylor said at the time.
Replace flag with ‘anthem’ and Kaepernick’s actions are in the same spirit.
Or as Vietnam vet Brian Chambers said.
“We’re burning the flag to say we will not stand by to see forced patriotism.”
Kaepernick didn’t burn a flag; in fact his protest was far more passive. He simply sat down – which is interesting because many of the people I have seen complaining about Kaepernick’s actions were among the same ones demanding that demonstrators protest peacefully in cities like Baltimore and Ferguson.
If a peaceful protest is what those freedom lovers wanted then they shouldn’t have a problem with anyone sitting through the anthem. Sitting down and doing nothing is literally the most peaceful thing you can do.
It’s the opposite of the attacks on student journalists that we saw – and rightfully criticized – at Mizzou. He didn’t torch a city or barricade a school administrator in an office. He didn’t spit on a cop or block a roadway that might have been needed to get someone with appendicitis to the emergency room. And he hasn’t as far as I can tell from any of his recent interviews, tried to silence any dissenters. He simply sat down.
It strikes me as strange that the people I see on social media criticizing Kaepernick for his decision and his politics – all while wishing him serious ill will – claim to be the biggest, most troop supporting, freedom loving patriots on the planet.
They’re the same ones who scream “free speech” when college kids protest a professor or comedian’s choice of words, and fly off the handle at how sensitive and soft and PC college kids have become for demanding trigger warnings and safe spaces.
So I have to ask. Doesn’t flying into a rage because your feelings were hurt when the football player didn’t stand up during your special song fall into the same category?
Are you so emotional, so intellectually weak that you can’t distinguish between the Mickey Mouse patriotism of the pregame national anthem, and the actual patriotism required to risk widespread ostracism because you stood for a belief instead of standing for a song?
Anyone blasting Kaepernick for his actions (and I have read way too many “yeah but…” comments online to waste energy refuting any of them) is engaging in the same kind of cry baby, social justice, emotional idiocy practiced on a regular basis by the regressive left. And to be totally honest, if called upon to deploy again, I would rather not step outside the wire with such spineless mental midgets.
It’s gotten so bad that following comments from an NFL exec, people are comparing Kaepernick to Rae Carruth who “conspired to murder his pregnant girlfriend.”
This is absolutely absurd, and to be honest un-American. I can’t say for sure where the founding fathers – those guys in the powdered wigs who feared the tyranny of government, and seemed to have an affinity for things like “certain unalienable rights” and “liberty” – would have landed in this debate, but I have a pretty good idea.
Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms that, “our attachment to no nation on earth should supplant our attachment to liberty.”
Ideas like that were the basis of the American experiment, an experiment that was fueled by protest, rebellion, and breaking from accepted norms.
Hell, we even had an entire modern political movement that took its name from one of those acts of rebellion – the Boston Tea Party.
From the 1770s, through women’s suffrage, to the civil rights movement all the way up to a football player sitting on his ass during the national anthem, this has been a country that became great because when ordinary citizens saw something that needed to be fixed they brought attention to it. That’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick did.
I’ve read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution a time or two and nowhere in there can I find anything about the right to freely express oneself so long as it doesn’t offend the troops.
So from one veteran to the masses let me say this; Colin Kaepernick is not the one who is wrong here.
There is an often quoted line from John Winthrop’s sermon ‘A Model of Christian Charity’ that was meant to remind the soon to be Massachusetts Bay colonists of their new role as a model for the rest of the world.
“…we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us…”
Winthrop was referring to Christian charity and living by Puritan values, but his words are applicable in a wide range of situations – particularly where American exceptionalism is concerned.
If we truly fancy the U.S. to be a shining beacon of light and an example for the rest of the world then we must look at Kaepernick’s actions as patriotic. Dismissing them because they “disrespect the troops” is a silly idea, it’s a cop out, and it doesn’t pass the smell test of even the most congested nose.
No, by using a peaceful protest to call attention to what he sees as our nation’s shortcomings, Colin Kaepernick didn’t disrespect our troops, he honored us.
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.