The National Anthem Sit-Down Heard Around the World
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The National Anthem Sit-Down Heard Around the World

One man changed the course of how we look at our flag with one simple gesture.

The National Anthem Sit-Down Heard Around the World

Whether you're a sports fan or not, you have most likely caught wind of the national anthem debacle that started all the way back on August 26, 2016. We are now entering the month of November and the issues surrounding our country's anthem are still picking up steam. It only took one man's simple gesture to spark a national controversy. His name is Colin Kaepernick and he's a football player.

Who is Colin Kaepernick you may ask? Even to hardcore sports fans, Kaepernick has become quite an afterthought. Colin was drafted into the National Football League in 2011 out of the University of Nevada with the 36th overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers. In 2012, he replaced injured starter Alex Smith, which started a Drew Bledsoe-type situation. The 49ers finished with a 11-4-1 record and Kaepernick carried his team to Super Bowl 47, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. In 2013, Kaepernick lead the team to a 12-4 record and lost the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks. After the 2013 season, Colin was rewarded with a six year/$126 million contract. However, his blockbuster deal seemed to be a curse for him. The 49ers finished 8-8 the next season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and Colin lost his head coach to the University of Michigan. On the 2015 season, under new head coach Jim Tomsula, Kaepernick lost his starting job after going 2-6 to Blaine Gabbert. From then on, Kaepernick was just another washed-up, overpaid veteran backup on a mediocre team.

(For my girlfriend who's always asking me to decipher football... here is an edited version...Colin Kaepernick was a really good football player in college who could throw and run well. A professional team drafted him early because of his talents. He was young and inexperienced and wasn't good enough to start for the team yet. However, the guy better than him got injured and he got to play. He played well enough to take control of the team and lead them to a league championship, which they lost. He got a contract for a near-record high amount of cash for his performance. Then, he began to play worse and worse. Eventually, Colin got replaced with someone better than him).

All caught up?


Kaepernick has been an afterthought for nearly two years, as most backup players are. Then came the third preseason game of 2016. The 49ers were hosting the Green Bay Packers. During the national anthem, the cameras usually pan over the players and during this game, the camera panned over Kaepernick and stopped. He was sitting down during the anthem, the only person nonetheless. The media asked him about it after the game and he simply stated why he did so.

Leading up to Kaepernick's antics, America was in turmoil. Minorities, mostly African-Americans, and law enforcement are in the spotlight constantly for controversial deaths of blacks by the hands of police officers. These incidents included the deaths of citizens Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray. The public began doing more than just protesting and shouting, as the city of Baltimore, Maryland had a week-long, city-wide riot in the streets, In Dallas, 12 officers were gunned down and five killed during a "peaceful" protest. With so much tension and fear between the public and law enforcement, people of power began speaking out. Our African-American president Barack Obama held several press conferences giving his condolences to those who have fallen. At this year's ESPY Award Show, NBA superstars (who were all people of color) LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony gave out a message to the public that the violence needs to stop in America and we can all stand up to help that happen. Then there was Colin Kaepernick's spin on things.

In the post-game interview about why he sat during the anthem, Kaepernick had this to say,

"I am no going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way". (He also added that he would continue the protest until he felt the flag was being represented the way it is supposed to be) (Kaepernick backed his protest up by saying that he sat for the two games prior to it and no one saw. He, as a black man himself, wanted people to see his silent protest rather than brag about it)

The NFL is always one to try to stay away from bad press immediately, but in the wake of Kaepernick's protest, the 49ers and NFL front offices issued a statement of support for Kaepernick's right to protest and free speech. However, the public wasn't as supportive, especially our military veterans, who voiced their feelings of disrespect of the act. To show he meant no ill will to the military. Kaepernick and his fellow teammates who had joined him decided to kneel instead of sit in the following week's game.

The real question is....why now?

Yes, the Black Lives Matter protest was in full swing by now, but had been around for years, ever since the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida in 2012. What was even more controversial is the fact that Kaepernick, who is actually a mixed race of African-American and white, never spoke out once before. He stated he chose now to speak up because he was finally fed up with all of it. Some people saw this as a courageous act, while others saw it as a prime media-opportunity (There were rumors of Kaepernick losing his spot on the roster and his job only a few days before the protest. To change these people's perception on him, Kaepernick donated $1 million of his now #1 jersey sells and donate it to various causes and communities). No matter his reason for the protest, his antics were positive, for the most part. Since his sit-down, he has gained followers and supporters from across the nation. Players from colleges and high schools around the country have joined in kneeling during the anthem. Even other NFL players have participated: Kansas City's Marcus Peters raised a gloved fist in a reminiscent of the 1968 Olympics, Miami's Arian Foster, Kenny Stills, and Michael Thomas knelt, the entire Seattle Seahawks team locked arms, New England's Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett also raised fists, and several other players have joined in throughout the season.

The national anthem protest has risen several other issues in our society. Coaches from other leagues, such as the NBA and NHL, have voiced their grievances. The National Basketball League commissioner Adam Silver made a statement that he hopes all of the personnel in the league will stand for the anthem, as the league has a rule that prohibits anyone from not standing dignified for the playing of the anthem (This came after Oklahoma City Thunder's Victor Oladipo called out his fellow players and expected them to follow Kaepernick's lead). USA Hockey head coach John Tortorella threatened his players, stating:

"If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game."

There have been some repercussions from this entire protest as well. A player for the Indianapolis Colts, Antonio Cromartie, was recently cut by the team at random.However, his wife later released it was due to his participation in the protest. Sports fans and the media have also shown their hatred toward the protest, criticizing and even threatening those who join in. More recently, a singer by the name of Sevyn Streeter was selected to sing the anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team's season opener. However, she was wearing a "We Matter" jersey, which represented the controversial Black Lives Matter protesters. Seconds before she went out to perform, the 76ers pulled her and canceled her contract over her wardrobe.

With all of this negativity surrounding our national anthem, there has even been a debate over if we should even play the national anthem before our sporting events, as we are the only country that does so (In response to this, fan at a Blues-Canucks hockey game sang both the US and Canadian anthems).

I would just like to finish with my opinion on this topic. We have the right to free speech and the players in the NFL aren't causing any harm or breaking any rules or laws. While I feel that Colin Kaepernick was endearing in his protest, I also think there was a part of him that did it in desperation of keeping his job. It's just too much of a coincidence. This protest has raised money for those affected by these tragic events and has also gained support and awareness. I recently attended an NFL game and during the anthem, not one person in the stadium knelt or sat throughout the performance. Even though everyone has stated that it was in no way will-ill towards our military and veterans, our flag does still represents our freedom and those who provide it. Doing anything that slightly disrespects the flag, disrespects our soldiers.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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