San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has called American patriotism into question when he decided to sit during the National Anthem rather than stand at attention on the August 26th game against the Green Bay Packers. Immediately after the game, he told NFL Media, “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.”
Kaepernick’s action challenged how we express our patriotism. Is he disrespecting the troops by not standing? Is he calling into question the NFL’s interestingly close relationship with the military? Various other football players have voiced their disdain for his actions, arguing that he’s not protesting in a valuable way.
But was his protest really all for naught? As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of The Washington Post notes, “Kaepernick’s choice not to stand during the national anthem could create a public backlash that might cost him millions in future endorsements and affect his value as a player on his team, reducing salary earnings or even jeopardizing his job…we should admire those who risk personal gain in the service of promoting the values of their country.” After all, aren’t we a nation built on protesting the standards we disagree with? Why shouldn’t Kaepernick want to better the nation that gave him the right to speak up against his oppressors?
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (left) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem before the September 12th game against the St. Louis Rams.
Kaepernick knew that his words would be misconstrued to be insulting to the military: “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country.” However, he sees patriotism as extending beyond patriotism: “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.” Kaepernick rightly separates the NFL from the military, as well as the military from national patriotism.
So what has come from his stance? For one, further insight onto how black people are apparently supposed to protest in this nation. They’re not allowed to wear shirts protesting unlawful shooting of black Americans. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter came with a slew of backlash, but shortly after led to the insurgence of #BlueLivesMatter when police lives were called into question. And now apparently they can’t kneel without being sent death threats.
Kaepernick has kicked open the floodgates to force white Americans to reassess how black people are allowed to protest. We need to stop suppressing black voices when they’re rightly speaking out against the injustices that they see in our society. And Kaepernick hasn’t stopped by just kneeling: on September 1st, he promised to donate the first $1 million he makes this season to charities that help low-income communities. And less than a week later, he vowed to donate all of the proceeds from recent jersey sales in response to the monetary support he’s receiving from his fans.
Regardless of whether you care for Kaepernick as a person, he’s pleading for us to pay attention to the oppression of minorities in our country. You are allowed to love this country and want to improve it at the same time. He’s taking a stance at a time when people are killed just for existing. He’s giving his time and income to the people who don’t have the opportunities that he has. And even if nothing comes of his protests, at least he’s trying to make a difference in the U.S.. What have you done today?
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of Her Campus at Gettysburg or of Her Campus Media, LLC.