During the national anthem at a pre-season football game on Friday, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, sat.
Although the athletes in the NFL are encouraged, but not required, to stand for the national anthem, Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated caught the eye of spectators and the media.
After the game, Kaepernick was asked to explain why he was not standing during the anthem like his fellow teammates. According to NFL.com, Kaepernick said he was sitting because he wanted to use his influence to bring attention to vices against minorities and people of color in modern day America.
“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 the NFL. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Instead of Kaepernick’s action bringing light to the oppression of people of color like he wished, it brought about a debate on free speech and public outreach. Many are concerned that the famous quarterback’s actions are either a battle cry for separatism or a plea for attention after he was replaced as the starting QB.
Kaepernick openly denies both of those claims, explaining that his recent actions have been preceded by years of internal dialogue on race and equality in the present world. He told the NFL Media that he understands the possible consequences of public protest and is willing to deal with the aftermath of his actions.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed,” he said. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me; I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Standing up for what is believed to be right is never simple, but according to Rolling Stone reporter Morgan Jerkins, it becomes 10 times harder when you’re a black athlete.
Black athletes make up 70 percent of football players, but a staggering 0 percent of majority owners of NFL teams, presidents or CEOs. Sports anchors love talking about a performance on the field, but shun talking about the person left behind when the season is over.
Muhammad Ali was openly criticized for opposing the Vietnam War. Chris Jackson was suspended from the NBA when he changed his name to Abdul-Rauf. Gabby Douglas was attacked for not placing her hand on her heart during the national anthem at the 2016 Olympics while her white counterpart, McKayla Maroney, was made into a meme after expressing disappointment at the podium only four years prior.
It seems as though fans in sports communities are willing to tolerate illegal behavior from their athletes, but not an opinion.
Athletes have every right to be critical of this country. Every person, regardless of their age, race, sex or religion, has that right. It is one of many rights that our armed forces defend. Criticizing our government and the history it was built upon does not necessarily make someone disrespectful to our country or the troops that protect it.
Our national anthem has other verses. Here’s an excerpt:
“Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution/ No refuge could save the hireling and a slave/ From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave/ And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Kaepernick and many other athletes have decided to move their affiliation from sports to something else — politics. Whether his actions will change anything is yet to be determined, but according to Kaepernick, he’ll stay seated until it does.
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