San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is making news for all the wrong reasons – or all the right ones. In the 49ers’ third preseason game, Kaepernick elected to remain seated during the nation anthem, in protest of the oppression that blacks face in everyday society.
Most of us can agree that America isn’t perfect. What many of us can’t agree on is justification for the platform Kaepernick is using to express that.
On the one hand, the quarterback is within his rights, per the first amendment. And he’s using that right to push for racial equality in a society that has seen police brutality among unfair economic and social treatment of blacks. As a man of wealth and fame, he’s using the league’s platform to address those issues in a very public way.
On the other hand, his choice to sit for the anthem can be seen as more disrespectful than helpful. Although it’s his platform to use for his own purposes, many will note that this act is coming from someone that hasn’t gone out of his way to generate positive growth for the community he’s representing. It’s also interesting, these same people will note, that it’s hypocritical for Kaepernick to be arguing for racial equality in the first place, given the fact that there was a contested fine applied for his use of a racial slur back in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears during the 2014 season.
And thus, a proverbial army of warring words from both sides has begun – something that has raged for the last week and a half. Something that will continue to occur until either the situation is resolved, the movement ends, or another social phenomenon takes its place in the spotlight.
Part of this article’s purpose is to lay out the details of the differing opinions, but the other purpose is to give those opinions a tangible voice. I took a survey of some of the well-thought out considerations sent to me by football fans and non-football fans alike in order to present a survey of public thoughts on the subject.
Kyle Phelps took a more sports-oriented perspective, drawing attention to the fact that Kaepernick’s career is likely in jeopardy within the NFL. Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report recently reported on many NFL executives’ wishes to stay very clear of the 49ers’ quarterback now and in the future.
“I am completely 100% in support of his right to protest, even if he might be a terrible, terrible representation of his own cause,” Phelps said. “It’s a terrible career move, though, because he’s already a [terrible] player and generally obnoxious person. When the 49ers finally get rid of him, he may not be able to catch on anywhere else because no one will bother with the PR issues for his lack of talent.”
Ayron Beavers took a decidedly pro-freedom outlook on the situation, calling out the hypocrisy of a sort of forced conformity – something that goes against being American.
“When you deem it necessary to inflict shame, name calling, fear mongering, and other methods of uneducated rhetoric and actions as encouragement (force) of a free American to conform to your way of thinking and agree with the masses, you no longer represent the freedoms of America. You then represent a dictatorship,” Beavers stated. “Our country is supposed to reflect freedom and liberty. Not forced patriotism. And let’s say the backlash works in the masses favor and we force a fellow American to be patriotic. We’ll likely then crush him for being fake and doing it in fear of financial loss. Our country’s freedoms protected by our troops do NOT exclude the right to be critical of our nation nor policies in our nation. You can’t be critical of ANYTHING involving government procedure in many countries in this world. We fight to not be those nations.”
Taking a similar approach, Vanessa Contreras put it quite succinctly: “If standing were required, and sitting punishable, then what are we standing for?”
Asham Amir talks about the concept of “intention” in a different light in his discussion of the topic. It’s an outlook that I, at least, haven’t seen much of in the conversations flying around on the subject. Interestingly, he separates “intention” from Kaepernick’s “cause.”
“Standing for the pledge itself has become a bit robotic, as we are doing as the norm has been,” Amir said. “I honestly don’t even find not standing for it disrespectful, as the action of standing up for a song isn’t respect in actuality, but rather the intention of the action is. That same intention of respecting the anthem can occur while sitting down. The star spangled banner is played at most major events, how many times do you think people have stood with the intention of just doing it rather than attempting to show respect for the song, which again, is just a song. Isn’t that outcry worthy? Or no, because as long as the norm is followed, it’s fine? I do believe that there was an underlying acknowledgement of “respect” for the anthem by Kap. Hence, why he decided to use the anthem to gain awareness. At this point, it seems to me that everyone’s issue is rather that he didn’t do what everyone else was doing rather than having the intention to disrespect America. His cause and whatnot is a whole other issue which may have some flaws, but with a country that was founded on an “f u” to the perceived oppressor in order to maximize freedom for all, I feel as if this action fits right in.”
Synonymous with intention, Brandon Woolf mentions his beliefs on Kaepernick’s reasoning, drawing a line between this and his constitutional beliefs.
“As a pro-freedom individual, I believe that he has the right to sit down if he wants to,” Woolf begins. “Men and women have died for him to have that right. Constitutionally speaking, nothing protects him from punishment he may receive from the 49ers. I think his reasoning is severely flawed.”
Marc Young takes a more aggressive stance on the issue, but focuses on privilege, both for Kaepernick in his actions and the public in its rights to talk about it. That being said, he suggests the quarterback doesn’t consider the other side – the side that Kaepernick seems to imply are the “oppressors.”
“Let’s see, Kaepernick was born of multi-racial parents, adopted by and raised in a white family. Ok, he’s a multi-millionaire, but at the time of his statement, Kaepernick had not yet created or offered to create a charity giving his first million dollars to address the issues he has adopted. He wasn’t the slightest interested in giving up any of HIS privilege to try to make things better for those he believes are oppressed,” Young says. “He has no idea what it takes to be a police officer but assumes it’s less training than a hair stylist. He has no idea what it is like to put his life on the line for anyone. Or to have to make life and death decisions on a daily basis and continually have to walk into situations [where] all common sense says run the other way, and do it not for yourself or family, but do it for total strangers. He certainly has the right to speak and act like an immature over-privileged fool and the public has the right to reject his childish uninformed behavior.”
And though certainly not the last opinion sent in, Kyle Bevan’s is one I feel sums up the argument well, as well as one that represents a significant portion of the population I’ve spoken with.
“To an extent, the story has been over-examined, overblown and there are too many opinions,” Bevan starts. “People these days think their opinion is fact for some reason and if we are ever going to fix the big problems in this country we all need to learn to disagree without hate. I don’t agree with the way he chose to bring attention to the issue but I respect his right to do so. There are much more constructive/active ways to bring awareness to the racial issues in this country than disrespecting a patriotic tradition as he did.”
Something that was not brought up presents another intriguing argument here. Although Kaepernick is within his right of free speech, he’s also an employee of a very powerful company – the National Football League. And as easy as writing its own amendment on a piece of paper, the league can deem it against its contract law to sit for the national anthem.
A whole different can of worms to consider. Until then, should more players decide to join this movement, the NFL will likely face public backlash one way or the other. It should be interesting to see not only the public reaction, but the corporate one was well.
In the meantime, we watch the nation grapple with how to solve problems in an increasingly socially-conscious era.
With many of these responses, we see a certain word arise as a theme for the speaker’s interpretation of Kaepernick’s decision to sit.
Intention. Reasoning. Privilege. Conformity?
These are the words that generate the real conversations on the issue, beneath the superficial rhetoric. It’s through these discussions that we see the pallet of thoughtful considerations. When presented with such a controversial act, it’s easy to defer to the name-calling and the radical agendas. It’s the easiest way to avoid the real issue – and all it does is add fuel to a growing fire.
Collectively, let’s choose water over gasoline.