Is Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest Un-American?

National Anthem Protest Touches A Nerve


Colin Kaepernic at the 2012 San Francisco v Green Bay Game

Mike McQueen, Multimedia Specialist

The 2016-17 NFL preseason ended in early September this year, and most the games were uneventful except the occasional injury. The most talked-about event of the season was when an NFL player was accused of snubbing his nose at the great sacrifice the men and women in our armed forces makes everyday.
According to ESPN the “Star Spangled Banner” has been played during baseball games as far back as the mid 1800’s. Today it plays at nearly every sporting event in the country from the National Hockey League to Major League Soccer and even high school sports.
The song was never more poignant than when it was played during the first games both baseball and football after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The ESPN article goes on to say Francis Scott Key’s words seem to taunt those who attack, yet our flag is still there. While the original taunt was to the British, it seemed to hold the same meaning in the wake of 9/11.
The New York Times quoted Dan Courtemanche, a league spokesman for Major League Soccer saying they had no choice but to add the anthem at the beginning of games “at this point, it has become part of the tradition of playing a sporting event in America.”
An expectation for conduct during the anthem, according to ESPN, was created during a baseball game in 1918, before we were born, during game one of the World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox. This was during a time when the country was darkened by World War I and a recent homegrown terrorist attack in Chicago, which made for a dubious time to enjoy a sporting event. By pure coincidence, the military band which was always on hand to play during the seventh inning stretch decided to play the Star Spangled Banner. For some reason, this got the entire crowd fired up and became the story in the next day’s headlines instead of the outcome of the game. From then on the national anthem was played at every baseball game and soon all sporting events.
Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who came out of college and set the NFL aflame with his strong personality and electric play on the field. Lately, Kaepernick is better known as the backup quarterback for the 49ers who almost did not make the team this year. This is due to an injury and subsequent sub par play, though some attribute in part his fall from grace to his sideline protest.
During the preseason games Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem, something that is seen as not being in the spirit of the moment. Others would say his right to protest is ensured by those who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting this country.
Kaepernick has told NFL media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
He goes on to say, “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.”
Kaepernick has amended his protest to kneeling during the national anthem, and this practice is being picked up by other players as a sign of solidarity for his message. This is not the first example of protests involving the national anthem. The New York times noted “Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf a center for the Denver Nugget’s protested during the anthem in 1996.” Also “the 1968 Olympians Tommie Smith, … and John Carlos protested when the anthem played after they were presented with medals in Mexico City.”
ESPN has also reported that some teams have protested using the song at all for their games due to the violent imagery depicted in the lyrics.
In opposition, Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, said, “I disagree. I wholeheartedly disagree. Not that he wants to speak out about a very important issue. No, he can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.”
Brees doesn’t dispute Kaepernick’s rights, but rather his uses of them.
“The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms. It represents the very freedom that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to exercise by speaking out his opinion in a peaceful manner about that issue.”
Brees considers Kaepernick’s protest an “oxymoron”
“Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.”
As the season continues even more players have joined in some sort of protest during the playing of the national anthem, and a small gesture by one player, expected to disappear once relegated to the bench, has taken on a life that will be seen for the foreseeable future in the NFL and this country.

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