Colin Kaepernick is a very touchy subject right now, but I’m going to do my best to cover the facts and both sides equally here.
As if Kaep needed any more criticism, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand during the National Anthem during Friday’s game against the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara, California. Instead, Kaepernick sat on the bench while the other players lined up with their hands over their hearts.
An unusual move. At first, the running joke was that Kaepernick was just practicing for this season, as former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert maintains his edge over the incumbent starter. But after the game, Colin explained his reasoning.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick to the NFL media 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.”
And then the Internet blew up. Everyone had an opinion. Twitter wasn’t around when Muhammad Ali dodged the draft, but I imagine a similar backlash would have occurred on social media. Kaepernick was a hero to some and an idiot to others.
A common complaint was that there are a time and place for everything, and the playing of the National Anthem is neither. Of course, for Kaepernick, it worked out well. Whether you agree or disagree with this stance, he got the country talking about it, and the conversation will undoubtedly continue Monday when the news stations get to take a crack at it.
Here’s the main issue: we all agree that free speech is a great thing—no one is calling for Kaepernick to be arrested, which is good—but is it appropriate to exercise free speech in protest of the very symbol of free speech?
Those who disagree with his stance say no. Those who agree with him say yes.
The Niners worded their response to the situation very carefully to avoid getting caught up in that debate.
“The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony,” said the team in a statement. “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 to participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.”
In dealing with this situation, the NFL, 49ers, and head coach Chip Kelly need to proceed with caution. Any perceived backlash will reflect negatively on all of them for violating Kaepernick’s First Amendment rights.
Colin seems to understand he’s putting everyone in an awkward situation.
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” said Kaepernick. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed…If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, a military member, made it clear that he loves this country and the flag, but he still supported Kaepernick’s stance.
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, on the other hand, feels that the flag is bigger than any one person or any one position, and it should be honored above all.
“You got to respect the flag, and you got to stand with your teammates…then you go about your business,” said Cruz.
One thing is for sure: this debate won’t be settled anytime soon.