The National Football League season starts in just over one week, and the most talked-about player is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. On Friday, Aug. 26, Kaepernick decided to not stand during the national anthem in order to protest the systemic racism that exists in America. Following this act, fans, athletes and celebrities have criticized the quarterback. Some have gone so far as to call Kaepernick’s protest un-American. As an American citizen, Kaepernick has every right to not stand during the national anthem, no matter what the rest of the country says.
Over the past few years, there appears to be an increase in the number of unarmed people being shot by police officers, as confirmed by FBI statistics. Many of these interactions have resulted in fatalities. As a form of protest, Black Lives Matter (BLM) was born and has faced much resistance as it tries to spread a message of awareness and concerted change.
Since then, other athletes have come out to protest the brutal killings of unarmed African-Americans and minorities, most notably Maya Moore, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James and Chris Paul. In the wake of both of these protests, Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem ahead of the 49ers preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers. Later, during post-game interviews, Kaepernick said that he could not stand and show pride in a country that doesn’t represent its own ideals.
The first amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens the freedom of expression. It gives citizens the freedom to believe what they want, worship who they want and express their beliefs. For Kaepernick, his decision to not stand during the national anthem is an extension of these freedoms. It doesn’t matter that Kaepernick is an athlete or that he makes millions of dollars every year.
As an American citizen, he is allowed to protest during the anthem if he feels that it represents something unjust. The calls for him to be removed from his position because he was acting “un-American” are, themselves, “un-American.” Additionally, the NFL does not require that players have to stand during the national anthem; therefore Kaepernick has done nothing wrong.
Others have criticized the quarterback, saying that his refusal to stand during the national anthem disrespects the soldiers who have fought and died for this country; yet, these people are disregarding what those soldiers fought for. Members of America’s armed forces work to keep America safe and to protect American values. They protect our interests at home and abroad knowing that if they die, they died to protect the rights of all Americans—even the right to protest against the nation for which they fight.
Those criticizing and attacking Colin Kaepernick seem to only care about the sacrifice that these soldiers made and not the reason for their sacrifices. By attacking Kaepernick for his protest, these people are in fact disrespecting the soldiers who gave up their lives to protect Kaepernick’s right to protest.
Some people have taken issue with Kaepernick’s use of the NFL as a platform to argue against injustice, saying it’s a “national” football league and it shouldn’t be hijacked for one man’s quest. However, Kaepernick isn’t hijacking anything unless we are going to say that players who pray openly before and after games are hijacking the sport to spread their religion. We place athletes on a pedestal and believe that they should stand up for injustice whenever they see it. Kaepernick is doing exactly what we believe athletes should do: Protest and take a stand (or seat, in this case) against the injustice that he sees in America. He is acting as a role model and should be celebrated for that.
Colin Kaepernick is acting on his rights and protesting against a society that he and many others deem unjust. It’s fine to disagree with his message, but not with his form of protest. After all, Kaepernick and his decision to stand during the national anthem are as American as football.
Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and opinion’s contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email email@example.com.