Kaepernick’s actions are truly American
Neil Joseph | Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Undoubtedly, everyone has heard of Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem of an NFL preseason game in late August. When asked why, Kaepernick said he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … [To him], this [was] bigger than football and it would be selfish on [his] part to look the other way.” Unsurprisingly, he received an incredible amount of both criticism and praise from political, social and even sports commentators for his actions and his motives. Independent of one’s thoughts concerning the legitimacy of his motives, Kaepernick’s actions are indeed American, and they represent what makes our country so great.
Certainly, the assertion that Kaepernick’s decision to sit for the national anthem is “American” is a controversial one. And understandably so. The national anthem represents so much more than just our country. It symbolizes, represents and honors those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in defense of our country. Part of the reason why it’s sung before major sporting events is not only to honor our country, but also to remember those who cannot enjoy the community and family that is inherent within attending a sporting event. I understand that it seems disrespectful, it seems ignorant, and that it seems like Kaepernick doesn’t care about anything that the national anthem represents. In reality, however, the reason he did what he did is because he cares so much about what the national anthem represents.
Objectively, the reason Kaepernick sat down during the national anthem was because he believed that our country wasn’t standing for the ideals it so proudly espouses for every single American. Whether or not you think he’s right is irrelevant — it’s what he believes, and he thought that he had to do something about it. For him, the national anthem does represent the people who have lost their lives and those who are consistently risking their lives to this day. He even said he realizes “that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat. …” But he also realized that in addition to protecting his right to sit during the national anthem, the men and women of the armed forces protect the rights that every single American should enjoy by virtue of being a citizen. And he believes that not every American has those rights — and that by itself disrespects the efforts and sacrifices that so many in our country make.
By sitting during the national anthem, Kaepernick acted in a way that actually was truly American. Obviously, exercising his right to free speech by sitting during the anthem was an American action — in few other countries would that be even culturally acceptable to many people let alone spark vigorous civil debate. Additionally, we have to look at the particular motives that guided his actions. Could sitting during the national anthem be disrespectful to soldiers who have fought for our country? Absolutely. But that’s not what he was attempting to convey. It’s not a contradiction that he could respect our country’s bravest while also attempting to highlight a particular issue. Could he have chosen different methods out of respect for soldiers? Maybe. But he thought that doing this was the best way to draw attention to the issue (which, frankly, has been quite true). His motives have been quite clear, and it seems that portraying him as unpatriotic misses the point of his entire action. Every action can be construed in many ways, and every person has valid reasons to find things that may be wrong with others actions. But regardless of one’s thoughts about Kaepernick’s motives, his actions really characterize what makes our country great — each individual being able to speak out for what he or she believes in.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.