Colin Kaepernick and the anthem

Before Friday night’s NFL preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, it was pretty much the usual routine. The “usual routine” before most football games is to play the national anthem, and etiquette and custom in the United States dictates that those physically able to stand for the playing of the national anthem do so. Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand. So much for the usual routine.

This story on NFL.com contains Colin’s explanation for his refusal to stand for the anthem:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”

His team, the San Francisco 49ers, appears to stand by Colin amidst the controversy:

The 49ers issued a statement about Kaepernick’s decision: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

The article goes on to quote a statement released by the NFL,

I am disappoined that there exist circumstances which made Colin’s action of refusing to stand for the anthem something he felt necessary to do. I know he is not the first to do so, but I would like to think with the nation’s minds on football, and this story appearing in places where the relatively large football fan base is looking, that people will finally start talking about this issue.

We have a real problem with racism and racial inequality in this country, and it needs to be addressed. As I said in a recent instant messaging conversation with a friend, I try to be proud to be part of this country, but there are things people do, some of which get international press, that often make that difficult. That said, the freedoms in this country include freedom of expression and freedom of speech, which include things like burning the flag, not standing for the anthem, and not reciting the pledge.

(Quick aside: I personally have no problem standing for the anthem or reciting most of the pledge. Being an atheist, I will remain silent for about 2-3 seconds after “one nation” and pick it up again with “indivisible.” The pledge was written by a minister, who left out the words relating to a deity on purpose. They were added later, by Congress. But that’s another topic for another post…)

Is it a bit ironic that the freedoms guaranteed by the country for which the flag and anthem stand for, include burning that flag and sitting for that anthem in protest? Maybe. But people like Colin don’t protest like that without a good reason. Rather than write him off as unpatriotic, people should look into what kind of statement Colin is trying to make.

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