Standing during the national anthem with your right hand over your heart, is how Americans pay their respects to their country before every major sporting event. It’s a way of showing appreciation for the rights and freedoms that the United States of America provides for it’s citizens. The opening line of the American national anthem reads “Oh say can you see”, but for San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the line may as well read “Oh say can you sit”.In recent times, twenty eight year old Kaepernick has been protesting the national anthem in response to what he views as the oppression against African -Americans and other people of color. In a statement he made to the NFL media, Kaepernick stated “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Also, “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.” In these quotes, Kaepernick is referring to the high-profile and as well as the largely unnoticed shootings of African-American citizens by members of law enforcement. These are truly tragic occurrences that have seen an increase in both frequency and media coverage ever since the shooting of Michael Brown back on August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. However, with the increase in media coverage coupled with the influx of high-profile athletes and celebrities voicing their opinions on the matter, the question is raised regarding exactly how these athletes and celebrities should go about making their thoughts heard. With the attention that these A-listers garner under the spotlight, there is a significant amount of responsibility to understand the impact that their words and actions can and will have on their millions of fans and followers. How many kids in their fifth grade classes will sit down now during the pledge of allegiance for reasons they can’t begin to fully understand? Furthermore, by protesting the national anthem Colin Kaepernick is theoretically turning his back on the very same freedoms and ideals that have granted him the ability to protest in the first place. The flag represents among other things, the freedoms that American citizens have been granted under the constitution. Kaepernick is exploiting the right to protest by exercising that right against the country that granted him that right in the first place. Kaepernick is right to be angry that people of color are being oppressed in the United States, but he is wrong to be direct that anger at the entire nation. Race relations in the United States have been one of the largest controversies in the country’s history, but improvements have been made. Granted, there are further improvements yet to be made. Kaepernick fails to understand that select individuals within law enforcement do not account for the millions of other Americans that live freely and peacefully among people of color. However, compared to many of the violent protests involving African-American civilians taking matters into their own hands, Kaepernick’s form of protest is much more peaceful. For that reason alone, it’s certainly better for the youth of America to be following a peaceful route of protest rather than a violent one.
Despite the backlash that he has received, there are many who are “sitting” with Kaepernick on this issue. Megan Rapinoe, midfielder for the United States Women’s national team, recently began protesting the national anthem for slightly different reasons. Rapinoe, a member of the LGBT community, began protesting the national anthem for the oppression she believes has been received by her community of people. While there are many people out there who understand this stance, there are other ways for these athletes to express their thoughts and concerns. This isn’t to say that a quick tweet or two would be suitable for an issue of this magnitude, but on the opposite side of the spectrum neither is disrespecting the flag that millions of Americans of all colors and creeds have proudly fought and died for. Perhaps a unification of African-American athletes throughout the NFL and other professional sporting organizations who share similar views on the matter would have a far greater and less controversial impact. If this group were to be formed and a press conference of some sort was held, it could be just what is needed to make a legitimate difference in our society. Now that the conversation has begun, those who started it need to step up and discuss the matter in a thoughtful and progressive way. All things considered, the actions of few do not represent the values of many, and Kaepernick should do well to remember this the next time he sits on that 49’ers bench.