Colin Kaepernick Stood Up for Justice by Kneeling During the National Anthem

This piece was originally published at InsideSources.com

Colin Kaepernick has not been involved in “off-field” scandals, has committed no crime, and has donated almost $1 million to community organizations over the last year, yet the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback is considered an outcast for kneeling during the national anthem.

Why?

Some say it’s because football is no place for politics. Not true. Gameday at every American stadium includes people waving signs endorsing candidates and offering literature for this or against that. Singing the anthem while jets fly overhead is a political moment. On the field or in the stands, standing at attention with your hand over your heart is a political statement.

Politics at football games is as American as apple pie.

Some say kneeling for the anthem shows disrespect. Respect and love for America doesn’t require blindness to America’s failure to honor its promise of racial justice and equality. Does standing for the anthem mean these failures don’t matter? Does standing show pride that America waited 89 years after the Civil War to acknowledge that Blacks were “good enough” to go to school with whites? How proud are we that in 2017 America’s schools are just as segregated as in 1954?

Kneeling for the national anthem is not lack of support for America’s successes any more than standing for the anthem is support for America’s racial justice failures. As Kaepernick’s 49ers teammate, Eric Reid, put it: “What Colin and Eli (Harold) and I did was peaceful protest fueled by faith in God to help make our country a better place. And I feel like I need to regain control of that narrative and not let people say what we’re doing is un-American. Because it’s not. It’s completely American.”


Kaepernick silently knelt, making no attempt to disrupt the singing of the anthem. He did not try to prevent anyone from standing. This textbook nonviolent protest is totally American.

Some say Kaepernick disrespected the military. Recognizing America’s failure to achieve racial justice and equality shows no disrespect for our military. Our military heroes fight for freedom, for the principles of racial equality and justice, not for a song or a flag. We honor them most not by singing a song but by respecting the values they fight to protect.

In 1939, Mary Bethune said about Black soldiers, “We have fought for America with all of her imperfections. Not so much for what she is but for what we know she can be.” Kaepernick is asking us to realize our true potential.

The anthem, after all, reflects America’s early connection to white supremacy. The third verse celebrates the murder of slaves:

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave,

from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

When the anthem celebrates the murder of your ancestors, maybe it is time to remind people of American values.

In demonstration of complete ignorance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings and beliefs, Clemson University’s football coach Dabo Swinney claimed King would not have supported Kaepernick. Anyone with actual knowledge of what King stood for knows he would have rejoiced at a rich, Black athlete risking fame and fortune by nonviolently protesting for justice. If college athletes are being taught something different it is blasphemy, not truth.

Kaepernick isn’t the first athlete to speak out, though he does it without the perils to those who came before him. John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised fists and were kicked out of the Olympics. Muhammed Ali refused to step forward in his draft line; he lost his title. Jackie Robinson was in a WWII segregated military unit and refused to stand up when he was ordered to the back of the bus, taking a court-martial instead.

Today Robinson is an American icon. No player in Major League Baseball wears number 42  except for one day of the season when all players on all teams wear it.

Robinson wrote about his first World Series game: “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion. … As I write this 20 years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

Kaepernick surely had it better than the Black athletes who came before him, but there simply is no denying how pervasive racial injustice remains in our country. His critics might not want to be reminded of racial injustice while watching football, but imagine if they had to live with it.

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Anonymous

Incredibly well said!

Kevin

Beautifully and thoughtfully written. Appreciate this!

Anonymous

I agree. Additionally, if you think about it, no greater honor is bestowed someone than a bow by another person. So you go sports stars, take a respectful knee. I think it’s more respectful than a hand over heart.

DestiNova

"Bombs bursting in air"? Whats up with that? Reliving blowing everything up before the start of a football game. How retarded is that? Ok, don't think, just say it.. over and over again for years like a retard. Sorry whom ever dreamed this song up, its over. Like Sanders said, "We're not that stupid" yet some are.

pimaCanyon

the "bombs bursting in air" were being fired AT the US by the British. The lyrics are celebrating the fact that they withstood the bombing. However, I agree with you that celebrating war is ridiculous. Let's celebrate killing and maiming and destruction of property and pillaging--yes, how retarded is that. Time for America to celebrate peace. And in order to do that we need to BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME! Stop the foreign wars, stop the bombing and the droning, stop the hateful rhetoric aimed at countries that are not friendly to US BUSINESS INTERESTS. War is always about US BUSINESS INTERESTS. Stop it NOW!

Anonymous

While we're at it, how about we not insult every intellectually disabled person in the world by using the word "retarded"? It's a slur... belittling the extreme effort these people make EVERY DAY to do/ learn things you take for granted. They are yet another minority group that is the target of intolerance, whose rights are routinely abused. Let's work to end prejudice against ALL marginalized groups, only then will that flag have lived up to its reputation.

Anonymous

American history not taught to our children today....I am shaking my head at you aclu.....
Anthem is the about our independence from England.... Please read Patrick Henry's words og give me liberty or give me death. This is the FULL quote....kept out of schools...(he meant America being slaves to England)
March 23, 1775.

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Anonymous B

Look, I do some political protest while at work I'd get fired, period. These millionaires should be treated no differently. They are not doing it to protest. It's a way to rebell and at work is not OK.

Anonymous C

I've only 1 thing to say about Pima Canyon. You do not have a clue,wake up.

Anonymous

You are also an anonymous nobody, and he is a spectacle for the entire country. He has actual power and is using it to impart real change with a nonviolent expression of awareness.

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