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Does Patriotism Belong on the Football Field?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Sonoma chapter.

Is Colin Kaepernick being disrespectful to America, or is he just exercising his rights?


Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the football team the 49ers, has recently made headlines for his refusal to stand up during the National Anthem at a game against the Greenbay Packers. Kaepernick later 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 is referring to the many cases of police brutality and killings that have enraged protests all over the country and it’s own movement: Black Lives Matter. The movement began in late 2014 after the murder of the unarmed black 18 year old, Michael Brown. After media profiled the recent high school graduate as a “thug”, protests against the killing began to sprout throughout the country, but most famously in Ferguson, Missouri. While Kaepernick didn’t cite the Black Lives Matter movement as his inspiration for his protest, he’s frequently spoken about his support for the movement.

It seemed that the common response to Kaepernick’s protest was outrage, many stating that he was disrespecting veterans and unpatriotic. However, isn’t it his constitutional right to sit down during either the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance as an act of demonstration? The NFL doesn’t require players to stand and his coaches have no problem with his boycott, stating, “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”

Kaepernick has inspired other athletes, professional or not, to opt out of the anthem. Megan Rapinoe, a soccer player for Seattle Reign FC, knelt during the anthem to support Kaepernick’s protest. She was later prevented from protesting at all because the coaches kept the entire team off the field during the anthem. There are protests happening even at the high school level, where anywhere from several players to the majority of football teams knelt as a nod to Kaepernick. A student in Ohio wasn’t planning on kneeling during the anthem, but changed his mind after white teammates referred to their black opponents with racial slurs. 

At the end of the day, whether or not to stand during the national anthem is a personal choice. Either sitting or kneeling, a person is stating that they’re unhappy with the actions of Americans, that they’re not always proud to be an American. They’re admitting that America makes mistakes too, and it’s time to own up to them and make a change.


Kylie Walker is a senior at Sonoma State University studying creative writing & women's and gender studies. She balances school with napping as much as she posssibly can. She enjoys petting animals and radical feminist theory. She sometimes writes about things other than politics or feminism, but rarely.
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