Colin Kaepernick taking a knee is a cause and not a symptom. Say what you want about Colin Kaepernick, but the guy handled a lot of backlash fighting for something he believed in. The true downside of his “protest” is the ideological conflict that has people boycotting the NFL. As of this weekend, people are burning their Nike apparel and footwear. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, which was given national attention due to President Trump, they are all misled. In fact, everyone has the right to express themselves. Repercussions aside, everyone is a bit confused as to what the kneeling means. Colin Kaepernick was made the whipping boy.
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There is this misconception that not saluting the flag is disrespectful. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no student would be forced to recite or participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. This was in response that was objected to by Jehovah’s Witnesses (who won’t swear patriotic or other oaths). Not only that, but it was common to sit during the Pledge or National Anthem to protest. However, when Kaepernick began kneeling, this took on a whole new meaning.
How It Began
Colin Kaepernick sat down during the National Anthem during the pre-season games of 2016. When he spoke with reporters, you could see that they were attempting to make it a privileged sports player disrespecting the country that gave him his new found wealth. “So many people see the flag as a symbol of the military. How do you view it and what do you say to those people?” a reporter asked.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick began. “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. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”
Oh, It Goes On
Apparently, not pleased with his logical and politically charged statement. The follow-up question wanted to make it about a man that condemns all law enforcement. They asked him if his protest would be considered “a blanket indictment of law enforcement in general.”
“There is police brutality,” Kaepernick responded. “People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change. There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”
So Where Did the Kneeling Come In
At the end of August 2016, the Army Times published an open letter from former Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer, who served as a Green Beret in U.S. military actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the open letter, Boyer reflected on how he felt standing on the field as the anthem played during his only appearance for the Seahawks. He was cut shortly after this experience. Boyer wrote:
I thought about how far I’d come and the men I’d fought alongside who didn’t make it back. I thought about those overseas who were risking their lives at that very moment. I selfishly thought about what I had sacrificed to get to where I was, and while I knew I had little to no chance of making the Seahawks’ roster as a 34-year-old rookie, I was trying.
That moment meant so much more to me than even playing in the game did, and to be honest, if I had noticed my teammate sitting on the bench, it would have really hurt me.
I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.
Now, the Kneeling
Both Boyer and Colin Kaepernick met just before the final preseason game in San Diego. Which is ironically the first time Kaepernick took a knee at the start of the game. “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammate,” Boyer explained. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest,” Kaepernick’s then-teammate Eric Reid wrote about afterwards. “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.
Protests are the Fabric of This Country
Protesting during the national anthem is nothing new. Many remember the iconic image of the two African-American athletics that gave the “Black Power” salute during the national anthem during an Olympic medal ceremony. Protesting the inhumane treatment of minorities is part of the racial divide that is breaking this country apart. The idea that the United States is a country of laws that benefit the privileged white people. The white extremist that want their “white America” back. It was never theirs to begin with. For all his protest, Colin Kaepernick has immense courage for losing everything to stand up for what he believes in.
Recourse is Another Aspect to Respect
While protesting is the fabric of this country, so is the public reaction to such protest. Blind patriotism is not the sign of a healthy democracy, but it is a sign. Many people that believe the media slant as a “middle finger to the military”, which is obviously isn’t, they have recourse. The NFL is a business. They will lose money and they have. However, the media loses money as well, as in viewers, because people will boycott the games. They won’t watch the games on television, which affects ad buys. They will not purchase NFL Sunday Ticket.
At first, the NFL sided with the players against President Trump’s politicization of the protest. Unfortunately, after the season ended, you have heard of penalties for players kneeling. ESPN stated they will no longer broadcast the anthem ceremony.
Believing the Fox News and right-wing media slate is dangerous. Not to mention the negative response of people claiming that it is because of the military that he makes those sums of money. Actually, that isn’t the same thing. Society is responsible for rewarding athletes such large sums of money. At the same time, teachers are forced to work two jobs and pay for their own supplies. The military is responsible for allowing Kaepernick to protest in that fashion. Minorities have fought in wars for the freedom they were never truly rewarded. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
The End Game
The outcome of this debate will not be solved by both sides coming together and understanding their differences. However, many members of the armed services agree that this is the reason they fight. Unfortunately, many of the conservative cannot separate why they fight for what respect they deserve. We are a country that honors its military. As we should. The major issue is that one is not the same as the other. I have the upmost respect for the people in uniform. I have played parts of military officers in my day and I played them with respect to their lives and sense of duty.
With that being said, the national anthem is not about the soldiers. It is about a country that has done a lot of good within its borders and around the world. Sadly, it has also committed many atrocities against minorities and militarily inferior opponents. As many racists have you believe, it was preordained for them to have this country. Regardless of the Indians and Mexicans that were here before them. We will never be a utopia. After all, how does history get past people like them?