After years of instructing African-Americans to protest peacefully, people are angered by African-Americans peacefully protesting.
San Francisco 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has joined the ongoing conversation about race in America. Kaepernick is using his platform as a professional athlete to bring the problem of race based oppression to the forefront through protest.
Responses to Kaepernick’s protest have ranged from praise to outrage. While some have joined him, including an entire team of high school football players and coaches in Seattle, others, like Iowa Representative Steve King, have accused him of being unpatriotic.
Before the 49ers preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on August 26, Kaepernick chose not to stand during the national anthem. During his post-game interview, Kaepernick explained why he opted out of the tradition.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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,” said Kaepernick.
Since his initial protest other players, including teammate Eric Reid, have joined him by sitting, kneeling or raising a fist. There has been backlash against players who have chosen to protest.
Some have even been hurt financially for their stance. Denver Bronco’s Brandon Marshall has lost two endorsement deals since joining Kaepernick. The Denver Post reported that Air Academy Federal Credit Union and CenturyLink cut ties with Marshall stating that his stance does not align with their values.
Although some Americans have suggested that his kneeling is disrespectful to people who serve in the military, some veterans have come to his defense with the Twitter hashtag #VetsForKaep. Also, the sales of his jersey have skyrocketed as reported by USA Today.
However, the support has not swayed the critics. Criticism surrounding the protest display the ugly side of nationalism.
There have been calls to punish Kaepernick and others for their “disrespect” to the nation. A statement by the American Family Association says, “If Kaepernick is allowed to continue his deeply offensive actions, it will only lead to other such movements by other players in the future.”
Some Florida school districts are now requiring students to get parental permission to remain seated or kneel during programs of a patriotic nature. The Huffington Post reported that Florida has a statute that allows district school boards to require participation in traditions such as saying the pledge and standing during the national anthem. The enforcement of this rule comes in response to students who have already protested.
People are wanting punishment as they believe there should be restrictions for protest, but that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
Those who want to put a stop to this protest are missing the point.
Nothing is more American than protesting. Protesting is a protected right. It is in the First Amendment.
Telling people to stop a growing protest because some don’t like it has never ended a protest. Many dissenters, especially ones supporting marginalized groups, realize the United States was built and made better by protest.
Protest movements like the labor movement, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement have made this country what it is today. What the United States has become is the result of a lot of work by a lot of individuals fighting injustice. Kaepernick is simply acknowledging that there is still more work to be done.
While I understand that this country loves its national song and there has always been a love of country, the anger towards Kaepernick, although not surprising, is still troubling.
It seems this newfound love for the anthem is only in response to the protest of racial inequality. Especially since strict adherence to proper protocol is relatively new.
Josh Levin, in an article for Slate.com, noted that no NFL player stood during the performance of the anthem until 2009. Levin writes, “Before then, the players stayed in the locker room as the anthem played.”
The contrast between the players standing at attention versus sitting is only amplified by the reasons behind it. Racial inequality is an upsetting part of America’s past and present. Acknowledging the continued oppression of people of color can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary.
It is time to get over this discomfort. This country has a race issue and confronting it is the only way to fix it. Ignoring the problems will not make them go away as it will just create more resentment.
These protests, along with other protests by activists, put the spotlight on the issue of racism and its effects. It is much needed attention for something that continues to thrive in a country that is supposed to be equal and free for all people.
Whether athletes and spectators choose to kneel, sit, or put up their fist, it is another call for this nation to live up to its ideals. This protest should not be seen as anti-American but as a way to express a love of country and what it represents.