Athlete’s anthem demonstration is a celebration of rights
By Matthew Gozzip Athletics Editor, Illustration by John Mueller Graphics Illustrator
Two weeks ago, on the sacred grounds of the sport that invokes as much patriotic pride as any other, Colin Kaepernick challenged the conventions of what it meant to be an American.
While the crowd stood in salute to the flag during the pregame rendition of the anthem, Kaepernick sat on the bench in silence.
The action went largely unnoticed at the time, despite him doing for two weeks prior, but after the game the NFL Network’s, Steve Wyche, confronted him about it during an interview. Kaepernick explained he did not want to stand for a country that continues oppress black people and people of color, that the issues were “bigger than football and it would be selfish on [his] part to look the other way”.
Immediately thereafter, a media firestorm ensued. Political talk shows critiqued his demonstration, labeling him “un-American” and ungrateful of military service members.
Social media lambasted him further as general rhetoric regarding his race and his overall “disrespect of American values”.
Despite all the vitriol, Kaepernick noted that he was aware of the backlash and continued to stand by his actions.
I also stand by Kaepernick in his decision to sit during the anthem.
I love my country. I partake in Americana: everything from cooking mesquite BBQ to playing the most popular sports. I celebrate national holidays with enthusiasm and every time the anthem is played I am at an immediate attention, a proud Asian American respecting the freedoms granted to my family when they immigrated here a century ago.
I will never understand what it’s truly like to be black in America and that’s okay.
I don’t need to be black to have empathy for Kaepernick’s cause.
If anything, I respect him even more for knowingly putting himself in a vulnerable position and still choosing to move forward.
It’s important to note that pluralism is what has allowed our nation to become diverse and free in times of oppression. Kaepernick is allowed to openly protest a system he doesn’t believe respects people of color because the representation of all beliefs is just as American as the flag itself.
Kaepernick’s original intent was to start conversations about problems that affect people of color with those who do not fully understand said problems.
He noted that he had more discussions about human rights and calls to change “in the past week then he had had in his whole life”.
Though the channel he used to incite discussion may seem excessive, it was effective in starting dialogue.
Kaepernick’s social progress and goal for the future appears to be the ideal model for solving social issues moving forward. Rarely has an athlete used their role as efficiently as Kaepernick.
Even with the straw man arguments about his salary (though empathy for people of shared ethnicity is possible for him regardless of his salary), his perceived non-blackness (though he is black, regardless of the rest of his mixed race) and declining ability on the field, Kaepernick has been calm in his role as ambassador-at-large.
On Tuesday, Kaepernick met with former Green Beret and current NFL player Nate Boyer to discuss issues that affected each other. The two discussed race relations and veteran wellness in a cultural exchange that promoted willingness to create perspective.
Kaepernick also recently revealed that he will be working with local community groups about how to further the form of his protests and that the first million dollars earned from his contract would be donated to these groups.
Kapernick’s impact continues to grow for the time being. When he protested the flag again this week, his teammate joined him. Down the road in Oakland, another player on an opposing team joined him. A trending hashtag on Twitter, #VeteransforKaepernick, shows many other veterans supporting him.
I will continue to stand during the anthem but I stand in respect to those who protect my right to and those like Kaepernick who prove that even in protesting a country that allows them liberty, you are only a true American if you exercise your right.