What Colin Kaepernick has really started in America

Aftermath and consequences of his first national anthem protest

James Sirio, Contributing Writer

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Two months have now passed since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem. His actions on that day have led some to flood him with support: his jersey sales quickly spiked, T-shirts with his face imprinted on it have been spotted at political rallies across the nation and other athletes—professional and amateur—have begun to kneel with him.

Others have seen it as a “right idea, wrong time” moment and have moved on with an indifference to a movement that requires attention.

Those who are opposed to Kaepernick’s actions take an over patriotic, protectionist standpoint that, regardless of all else, you are an American and you should respect the national anthem.

At this point in the protest, you know your side, and you know that it probably—although possibly loosely—relates to one of the three standpoints highlighted above. You know your side and you have probably had to defend your side. In your defense, have you considered that Kaepernick’s actions are in defense of what he believes is a social, political and world problem? He’s attempting to fight for an injustice that has been swept under the rug for far too long.

Bordering on the edge of ignorant, we have seen arguments saying Kaepernick doesn’t get it; he is rich and in the NFL. How could he be the subject of racism? We have seen arguments about the need to stand in support of our troops, and we have seen arguments that have essentially said respecting the anthem represents an endorsement of the United States’ ideals. Standing during the anthem shows your support for the freedoms and justices that you are afforded as a citizen and to kneel during it is a disrespect to America.

I get it. Standing for the flag shows your unwavering appreciation for the nation you live in. It’s almost an undeniable fact to some people. But who decided that?

We have probably all seen at least one patron in the stands enjoying his footlong hotdog while the music is playing. Finishing the dog before the song is done, he returns to his seat more satisfied with the hotdog than his lackluster attempt to be patriotic.

It is arrogant to believe that everyone should conform to the idea that standing during the national anthem makes America great again.

That isn’t a witty pun, it is the truth. No law says you have to stand for the anthem, and I can’t even tell you how standing for it started. Can you?

It is arrogant to think that your view of patriotism is everyone’s view considering how diverse our country is and always will be. To some, the anthem is a time to be quiet, still and respectful. To others it is a time to stretch the legs one last time before watching a game while enjoying a few hot dogs.

It is disingenuous to get upset about an NFL player using his platform to take a stand by saying they don’t want politics in sports. The NFL has made games political with anthem-playing, flag-waving and jet fly-overs for a long time. We even play the anthem in games hosted in London. All of the arguments can be countered. And all of the counter arguments can be rebutted.

The problem is that the entire point of the protest is vacuumed up in a wishy-washy argument of how one should act during the national anthem. Those arguments are simply a smoke screen that drown out the true intents behind this movement.

The violence that Keapernick’s neutral act of defiance has been met with, simply cements the point that he is making. Anti-black sentiment in America runs deep. Besides, what meaningful social change has ever occurred with protest that makes people comfortable? Dissent is uniquely and distinctly human and in America you are given the right to exercise dissent. People laud Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali now, but they were hated and viewed as anti-American when they were speaking up for African-Americans a few decades ago.

What often goes unnoticed in this movement is that the public barely paid attention when the Seattle Seahawks linked arms and made a video about unity. Or when Cam Newton wore a T-shirt printed with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Moments have been captured that show many athletes quietly protesting an important issue. It just so happens that Kaepernick’s created more of a stir.

The amplification of his actions now have consequences. You can hate the guy for voicing his opinion but you can’t hate the guy for being right. There are problems in America that run deeper than kneeling during the national anthem. As for Kaepernick, he now has a microphone that he probably never expected to have but is hopefully wise enough to make the most of it.