Colin Kaepernick. Four years ago, that name may have made one think something like: “He’s a good quarterback. He brought his team to the Super Bowl for the first time in twenty years. Good for him.” Today, that name will get very mixed responses. Some say that he is going above and beyond what is expected of an athlete to do for his community. Others claim that he is a disrespectful backup who has crossed the line. The reason for all of this controversy is a decision that Kaepernick made in the early preseason of the 2016-2017 football year. His decision? To sit down during the performance of The Star Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem.
Why are so many people supporting Kaepernick? Many people say that he is taking action against injustice and trying to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter campaign. According to the Washington Post, African Americans are approximately 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer. This is an unbelievably and unfortunately high number; there’s no questioning that. By that logic, there is nothing wrong with what he is doing. Also, people are defending him just for the sake of defending him. Some people may not agree with what he has to say, but they acknowledge his constitutional right to say it. Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” While this might not be completely morally correct, there is not really anything wrong from a legal standpoint with what he is doing. Another reason for Kap’s high numbers of support is that he is using his position to benefit those without a voice. Athletes are some of the most impeccably watched and idolized figures in the world today. If they can be good role models, then they are using their power to the advantage of the people. Not everyone will get to a point in his life where he is able to express his opinions with millions of other people. As a matter of fact, the majority of people won’t. Adding to that fact, countless celebrities set low standards for the people that follow their every move. They get arrested, use drugs, and do many other unflattering things. It is not often that a celebrity uses his status to his advantage and to the advantage of the people, so many people will support someone like Kaepernick, even if they don’t share certain beliefs. In this sense, these last two reasons are somewhat similar.
To take a look at the opposite perspective, why do many people disapprove of and condemn Kaepernick’s actions? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of these people. She called his actions disrespectful and compared it to flag burning. What was the reason for these comments? First of all, it is insulting to the people that have fought for this country. Every single person that has gone out to combat the threats of the American people – over forty million people – have done it to protect that flag. All of a sudden, they aren’t given the respect that they and their loved ones deserve because of a man that plays a game for his career. That is not right and likely not what the founding fathers intended by creating free speech. Fellow NFL quarterback Drew Brees has a stance similar to that of Justice Ginsburg. He said: “It’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.” Brees has a point here. Kaepernick is being a bit counterintuitive by protesting the very thing that gives him the right to protest. Also, he could have it much, much worse. Instead of making $19 million dollars per year, he could be making $456 per year as a worker in Bangladesh. If it weren’t for the American flag, he would not be in the position he is in now. Also, without any disrespect intended, Kaepernick comes from a white family. Although his birth father was African American, both his birth mother and his adoptive parents are white. Even though it is obvious that he is not protesting white people as a whole, it is still a bit ironic. How much does he really know about the mistreatment of African Americans if he hails from a place that is over 90% white? Is the only way he gets information from the news? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the American flag is a symbol for the people of the United States. It once showed, and remains to show, although the design may have slightly changed over the years, that we are all united. One way or another, every single person in America has dealt with hardship. The impact it had is different for all of us. Instead of giving up when it gets tough and fleeing to another country, time has shown that people stick around in the United States. Members of the military could have taken a safer job, but they wanted to fight for what was right. There are a few major differences between Colin Kaepernick and the great people that have given and continue to give their lives to this country. First of all, they respect and honor those who have fallen. Second of all, they stand for the national anthem. If respect and standing for the American flag make someone great, what does that say about Colin Kaepernick?