San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem before a preseason game versus the Green Bay Packers has quickly become one of the more polarizing topics of discussion.
This week, other athletes in the NFL and around sports have joined Kaepernick in his protest despite backlash. Kaepernick stated that he will continue to sit until he feels the flag represents what it’s supposed to.
While Kaeprenick’s choice to not take part in the National Anthem seems disrespectful and unpatriotic to some, his decision to take part in a silent protest and support what he feels is right is as American as it gets.
Throughout this country’s history, there have been countless moments of people protesting against what they felt wasn’t right. Whether it’s students at Kent State protesting what they felt was an unjust war in 1970, women fighting for suffrage in the early 20th century, or African Americans peacefully sitting in restaurants labeled “WHITES ONLY ” during the civil rights movement, each of these moments were a form of protest and served a specific purpose: to shed light on problems in the U.S. by means some may see as extreme—problems which would continue to go unnoticed without these often misconstrued moments.
The late, great Muhammad Ali chose not to serve in the military in 1966 during the Vietnam War, and it cost him not only the world heavyweight title, but three prime years of his career. Who knows what this will cost Kaepernick in the end?
The fact of the matter is when someone wants to make real change, what they may lose isn’t a factor. His decision to not stand for the National Anthem and using that to speak out about the injustice against minorities and people of color in America is more important to him than endorsements or playing in the NFL.
Race relations in the United States isn’t a black problem, white problem, Latino problem, Asian problem or Native American problem. It’s everybody’s problem and until people choose to acknowledge that it exists, it’s not going anywhere. Kaepernick’s attempt to bring awareness about this subject has fallen on deaf ears due to the way he went about doing it, but would those people have heard Kaep’s message even if he hadn’t protested in this way? No chance.
Don’t let the initial shock or discomfort of Kaepernick’s actions cause you too quickly to ignore what he is attempting to stand up for, or even cling to some overblown sense of patriotism to soothe the discomfort of the subject. This country was built on protests just like this. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last.