You certainly don’t have to follow football to know who Colin Kaepernick is. The NFL quarterback has been at the center of the leauge’s biggest controversy since Tom Brady got caught “adjusting his balls.” Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the playing of the National Anthem before his team’s games as a way to draw attention to the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement has made him a lightning rod of controversy.
I am not here to write about the worthiness of his cause. I am here to write about his choice to exercise his option not to stand for the Anthem and the firestorm of acrimony that has been rained upon him, and a handful of other players who have followed his lead, as a result.
First, let me say that I understand the initial negative reaction that many people have expressed. On a surface level, it bothers me to see someone choosing to sit during the Anthem or Pledge of Alegience. My internal, knee-jerk reaction is that they are being disrespectful. I understand that a lot of great people have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure the blessings of liberty we enjoy in America. Sometimes, people who don’t show respect during the Anthem are just plain being disrespectful because that’s just who they are. But other times, someone may be trying to send a message that perhaps the blessings of liberty are still not being equally distributed in this great country. You may not agree with that message but, by God, they have the right to be heard!
And that is why, when I see Kaepernick kneeling while others stand, once I get past my initial distaste for it, I begin to see that his gesture is actually a reflection of exactly what makes America great. While I’d prefer to see him stand out of respect for the sacrifices of those who have protected our freedom, I also understand that one of the freedoms they protected was his right to kneel. I would much prefer to see Kaepernick allowed to kneel and risk offending a soldier than to see a soldier come up and force him to stand at gun point. Wouldn’t you?
America gets it right…on paper. We have a Constitution that has been the envy of the world for more than two centuries. One of the reasons the Constituion exists is the fact that the Bill of Rights was added to it. The Bill of Rights (which was insisted on by many of the state representatives before they would vote to approve the Constitution) is the ultimate undemocratic document. It is in place specifically to protect the rights of the few against the will of the many. That means that, if we truly value our freedoms in this country, we have to accept that everyone is entitled to those freedoms, even when the way they choose to exercise theirs offends us.
When I stop to consider this, I get past my knee-jerk distaste for Kaepernick’s protest and begin to see it as a very American expression of freedom.