As an American citizen, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick had the right not to stand during the playing of the National Anthem at a recent NFL football game. He was right. But the NFL … well, it was and is hypocritical.
I didn’t like his antics. I figure someone with a ton of money could choose a different platform to voice his displeasure of a country that enables him to make at least $11.9 million for playing a game … actually sitting on the bench.
I must insert a disclaimer here. I didn’t like Kaepernick in the first place, and it doesn’t have anything to do with him. I’m a tepid 49ers fan going back to the days of Steve Young and Joe Montana. Then, Coach Jim Harbough disappointed me by replacing Alex Smith with Kaepernick because of an injury. But that’s professional football.
I’m also biased about his actions for another reason. I’m conditioned to stand during the National Anthem. It’s a customary tradition instilled in me while growing up on Army posts.
We stood any time the anthem played: in school assemblies and at ball games. And we stood at the movies. Yes, at the movies.
Every movie started with the playing of the National Anthem. And, if you happened to be walking down the aisle with your bag of popcorn when the anthem started, you stood in place. There was plenty of time to find your seat during the previews. That was my upbringing, and it stuck.
In August 1983, I was a journalist writing about the military at Fort Bragg. There, a Green Beret captain made a remark I’ll always remember. I paraphrase because it’s been 33 years. He said that he might not agree with everything I say, but he would defend with his life my right to say it. I don’t remember his name, but I remember his passion for defending our Constitution.
So, with bile in my throat, I agree with those who say Kaepernick has the legal right to disrespect his country. But it’s too bad that he did so in a way that fostered more divisiveness than understanding.
He picked a debatable topic; one that paints all police as racist executioners. He also lampooned presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I didn’t know where he was going with that.
Kaepernick’s biological father abandoned him and left his mother destitute. It forced her to put him up for adoption and he was raised by a white family.
Thus, he could champion the positive attributes of two-parent families. Or, he could call for more adoptions of impoverished children. He could use his platform to call for an end to black-on-black violence — especially since this Labor Day weekend’s highest yet gun-related deaths in Chicago.
Instead, he donned those now famous blue socks that depicted pigs in police uniforms. Then wore them during televised football practice. He claims his position of not honoring a nation that oppresses black people and people of color is a political statement. His coach supports him as does the team. Even the NFL stated through its spokesman that players are encouraged but not required to stand during the anthem.
Many fans support Kaepernick’s position. Among them veterans who say they’ve fought for his right to show disrespect to the flag. Since his on-camera actions and later interview, his jersey is the best selling item for the 49ers, according to the team’s website.
But with freedom of speech, especially inflammatory rhetoric, comes consequences. People are burning his jersey on social media, and the Santa Clara police don’t want to provide security for 49er games. Those actions too are covered by the First Amendment.
Yet, I am confused by the NFL’s position on the matter. Earlier, the Dallas Cowboys wanted to honor the five fallen Texas police officers killed in an ambush in July by wearing a decal on their helmets. The NFL said no. Apparently, there’s no freedom of speech and expression for the Cowboys.