October 2016 (Volume 67, Issue 1)
by Will Katcher, staff writer
First, a brief backstory. The date was August 26th, 2016. The setting: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers, who were set to host the Green Bay Packers in Week Three of NFL Preseason football.
The loudspeakers buzzed to life as the public address announcer requested that all present please rise for the playing of the national anthem. And while just about everyone in the stadium did leave their seats and remove their caps, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and looked ahead as nearly everyone present looked to him.
In the post-game press conference, Kaepernick was asked about his choice to remain seated during a time when most people normally rise as a sign of respect. His response? “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
That was several weeks ago, and soon after, on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, the first Sunday of the NFL season kicked off, with Kaepernick taking the field in primetime against the Los Angeles Rams.
Following that first Sunday game, many condemned Kaepernick, as they already had and will continue to do, for his decision to sit during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” on a day that symbolizes patriotism, loss, and respect. But when we slow down and think, saying “today, of all days, Kaepernick should stand,” should really be stated as “today, of all days, let Kaepernick sit.”
Kaepernick was not alone in his decision. Across the league, several prominent athletes sent messages in their own ways. Miami Dolphins star running back Arian Foster, along with teammates Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and Jelani Jenkins dropped to one knee. In a show of unity, members of the Seattle Seahawks linked arms during the national anthem, as did the Kansas City Chiefs. Even players who didn’t want to show disrespect by kneeling chose to show their solidarity with the cause by raising a fist, in the style of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
It’s clear that this is not the work of some America-hating-race-war-bating-military- vet-disrespecting-attention-seeking-lone-wolf-protester-hooligan. This is real a real movement, made up of real people, real athletes, and real heroes.
On September 11th, Kaepernick was right to sit, not in disrespect to a country that experienced such tragedy on this day, but in homage to what our country was attacked for. The U.S. was attacked because we are a beacon of hope and opportunity to the oppressed people of the world, and because we represent the freedom that al-Qaeda fought against.
On September 11th, Kaepernick was right to sit, because the freedom to speak is amongst those most basic freedoms that we hold dear. I don’t believe anyone truly thinks that Kaepernick means to disrespect those who died on 9/11, or to dishonor those who served in the Global War on Terror. When he chooses to sit, he shows us all that we still have the freedom to express ourselves in ways that can improve our country.
Let’s not disparage Kaepernick and further divide and already divided nation. Is that not what al-Qaeda hoped to do 15 years ago? A country filled with fear and distrust? Let’s be our most American selves when we look at Kaepernick’s honorable protest, and understand that he represents the freedoms we hold most dear. In that way, we can truly respect our country and keep the American spirit alive.