Standing for the National Anthem

Although the initial anger about it has come and gone, Colin Kaepernick continues to sit down for the National Anthem before 49ers games. While people have moved on to and gotten angry at the next trumped up news story (pun intended), Colin Kaepernick continues to sit down as an act of protest against what he sees as an injustice to the black community. I am not here to discuss whether or not the cause which Kaepernick stands (or sits) for is right or not, because that is irrelevant when discussing his right to protest. His cause does not and should not affect his First Amendment rights, and Colin Kaepernick has every right to fight for whatever cause he believes in.

For months, many people said that BLM protesters were to violent and unruly. Now, people are angry with Kaepernick for just not standing up. Which proves that there is no way to legitimately protest without somebody getting angry and criticizing you for the way in which you protest. That is not me excusing the violence seen in some of the riots as a response to police brutality, but I do have to ask, is there a legitimate way to protest without somehow attracting criticism? Protest in sports is nothing new, Tommie Smith and John Carlos got into major trouble for performing the Black Power Salute (which Smith called a "Human Rights Salute") at the 1968 Olympics (and Peter Norman got in trouble in Australia just for wearing a human rights badge with them.) So, the visceral reaction that Kaepernick faces for protesting as an athlete is certainly nothing new.

The Supreme Court has ruled that people do have the freedom to not stand for the national anthem, and that it is unconstitutional for public officials to force people to stand for it. But, while it isn't illegal to sit, many people still consider it disrespectful to veterans, some of whom cannot stand up at all. However the hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick was started by several veterans who believed that they fought not for Kaepernick to stand, but for his freedom to sit or stand as he pleases.

I've seen many people who were attacking Kaepernick for expressing his rights that simultaneously defend their right to fly the Rebel Flag, an unambiguous symbol of treason. Whether or not it's a symbol of slavery and racism is an argument for another time, but it certainly was a symbol of treason. People talk about how Colin Kaepernick disrespects our troops, but why is it not disrespectful to them to wave around a flag that was once used to symbolize attacking on soldiers in the US Army in the name of secession? People attribute different meanings to the Rebel Flag. Some people associate with slavery and racism, others, with Southern heritage and history, and others see it as a symbol of treason. But, despite my feelings about the Rebel flag, I will defend your right to fly it, and I will defend your right to criticize Kaepernick. But I will also point out the sheer hypocrisy of doing both because that's my right. Similarly, people attribute different meanings to the American flag. And Kaepernick sees it now as a symbol of the injustices in the criminal justice system. And, just as I will defend your right to fly the Rebel Flag, you should defend Kaepernick's right to sit during the National Anthem.

All of this, in the end, comes down to a discussion of patriotism. I, unlike Kaepernick, choose to stand for the Star Spangled Banner whenever it plays. I take off my hat and place my hand on my heart. I choose to do this because it is how I express my love for this country. However, I know and admit that the United States is still a flawed nation. I love my country, and I try to do what I can to improve it, because I know I can make it a better place. That is what Kaepernick wants to do as well. Instead of getting angry at a person's supposed lack of patriotism, we should work towards making a country that makes everyone proud to stand for the national anthem.

Blind patriotism is not the American way. Forced nationalism is not the American way. The United States began because of protest. The Declaration of Independence is a protest document. Protest is the American way. If you truly love your country, you should love it despite its flaws and work to correct those flaws, instead of just ignoring them. Whether you see similar or different flaws than Kaepernick, work to correct them; I will defend your right to do it, no matter the cause, because that's the American way. We, as Americans, should not force people to be patriotic. If you want to live in a country that forces people to be patriotic and ignore its flaws, move to North Korea.

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