Quarterback incites outrage by sitting for national anthem

By Nick Kerr ‘17

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The last few weeks have had many American’s asking themselves when their country “lost its way,” and it all started with a single action from a single man: Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers quarterback incited a firestorm after sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game at the end of August.His reasoning behind the protest was a controversial one: he was not going to stand for a flag that he believed did not respect minority Americans. Kaepernick’s goal was obvious. He wanted to keep the racial conversation in America alive, especially in a year plagued by the rise of individuals like Donald Trump who have helped give legitimacy to a white supremacist and anti-Semitic movement known as the “Alternative Right” or “alt-right” for short. But instead of just keeping the conversation alive, Kaepernick inadvertently managed to start an entirely differently one.In the wake of the quarterback’s protest of the national anthem, social media erupted (as it always does at the slightest prod) in a furious racist frenzy, accusing Kaepernick of disrespecting the troops, and the country as a whole. Many claimed this was “not the way to start a racial conversation.”Others, like TheBlaze’s online “news” anchor Tomi Lahren, accused him of inciting black Americans to “walk around with a chip on their shoulder and parade around like a victim” and told him if this country “disgusts him so much,” then he should just leave instead of attempting to change it. She later went on to say that he shouldn’t blame racism on white Americans (he never did) considering he was raised by white parents and is bi-racial himself.A few days later, veterans of the United States military shot back at the rhetoric that Kaepernick was un-American by tweeting out “#VeteransForKaepernick” (eventually making it to the number one trending topic on Twitter) in which many active and retired service members conveyed the sentiment that they fought not for a flag, but to protect the United States Constitution, and they were willing to give their lives for Kaepernick’s protest whether they agreed with his motives or not.In fact, Kaepernick later stated that his protest is not aimed at the military in any way, and on September 1st he stood and applauded as veterans were honored during the second preseason game. Undeterred by his critics, though, he sat once again as the Star Spangled Banner played in San Diego.As Kaepernick’s protest went on, more and more public figures began to engage in or lend their support to Kaepernick’s protest. Former Army Green Beret and onetime NFL player Nate Boyer voiced his support for Kaepernick after a meeting, saying on Twitter, “Thanks for the invite brother… Good talk. Let’s just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about.” Former U.S. Woman’s National Team Player and current Seattle Reign winger Megan Rapinoe also knelt at one of her games as a nod to Kaepernick, along with Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall.Eventually, though, the controversy came a little bit closer to home for me. On Saturday, Philadelphia Inquirer high school sports reporter Phil Anastasia tweeted out a picture of Woodrow Wilson High School players and coaches kneeling as the national anthem played. I watched people I know personally erupt into a rage calling the protest a “disgrace,” “classless,” and an “embarrassment.” One commenter said, “I can’t believe people have the nerve to disrespect our troops like that. You’re lucky to even play football you scums [sic].”But here’s the bottom line that a lot of people tend to forget: Standing doesn’t make you a patriot and kneeling doesn’t make you a traitor. People who really truly respected the national anthem and the flag would also respect, if not applaud, these young men for exercising their First Amendment Right in a non-violent way. They would applaud these young men for standing up (or rather kneeling) for a cause in which they believe in whether you support it or not.But so many people have fooled themselves into believing that in order to love this country, in order to be a true patriot, you must stand when the Star Spangled banner plays, and if you don’t, then you must be the enemy. Whether it was in the 50s when such a protest made you a communist, or today when it makes you a “terrorist sympathizer” who hates America, that has been the mindset of millions of Americans for generations. But I couldn’t think of anything less patriotic than slandering people for exercising the single most important amendment in the Bill of Rights.The flag is a symbol, and it is undoubtedly an important one. It symbolizes unity among us and freedom and justice for all. But by no means does it grant anyone anything. When folks say “They should be standing for the flag that gives them a right to sit” that is an inherently incorrect statement. The Constitution is what provides us with our right to stand, sit, dissent, support, and speak freely. And the last time I checked, the flag is not the Constitution. The flag does not represent the Constitution. It was not made to act as a physical representation of it. And, it does not represent our troops either. They’re separate entities.When a soldier enlists, the oath goes “I… do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” The men who die at the hands of our enemies do not die for that flag. They die fighting under it in order to protect our right to protest it. And saying anything otherwise is simply a misrepresentation of the flag.Until we learn, just like the soldier does, to respect and defend those exercising their rights rather than slandering those who do, we will not be patriots. If there are those who wish to critique the motivation behind the protests of Kaepernick, Rapinoe, Marshall, the players and coaches of Woodrow Wilson High School, and countless others, I beg of you, stop hiding behind the flag like cowards. Do not use the national anthem and flag in which you supposedly hold in such high reverence as shields in which you can conceal your bigotry behind.If you think racism is dead, or Black Lives Matter is just a bunch of entitled, un-American black hooligans, or that there is no room for a debate about race in this country, then own that position. Otherwise, hiding behind the flag to disguise hatred is just as disgusting as you claim kneeling rather than standing before it is.

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