Since the 2016 preseason began, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has been raising flags on and off the field as he raises his voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He first caught the public’s attention when he sat down during the playing of the national anthem, and the uproar has inspired a massive wave of BLM support.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” He says that he will return to the practice of rising when he believes that the flag represents what he thinks it is meant to represent: a free and equal America.
In addition to the wave of support, Kaepernick has received criticism that his actions are disrespectful and un-American. Videos of used-to-be fans burning their jerseys have surfaced all over the Internet. But delving deeper into the issue proves that a Kaepernick jersey might be worth holding onto. In fact his protest could not be more expressive of American values.
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government….” Kaepernick is using the Constitution to his advantage. After all, that’s what it’s for- to protect the people’s rights. All Kaepernick is trying to say is his rights and the rights of his community are being violated, and he (literally) won’t stand for it.
Kaepernick isn’t un-American; un-American would be the denouncement of Constitutional rights in the name of protest; Kaepernick is honoring it.
The Constitution is at the core of this country; it’s what protects our citizens and keeps our democracy thriving. Kaepernick is not burning a flag and he is not denouncing the fundamentals of freedom; he is not committing acts of violence. Rather, he is exercising his right to peaceably assemble in protest of the injustice that he and his community have witnessed.
At the bottom line, what’s more American than exercising Constitutional rights in the name of equality and justice? And many people agree.
On Sept. 5, Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the National Anthem before her U.S. women’s national soccer team game in a show of support for Kaepernick’s movement.
High school and college athletes across the country have taken a knee before their games.
On 9/11 the Seattle Seahawks showed support for Kaepernick by linking arms during the anthem to show solidarity and unity.
A Green Beret veteran wrote an open letter to Kaepernick expressing his willingness to listen to what Kaepernick is trying so hard to say and acknowledging his respect for the fight.
Barack Obama showed his support for Kaepernick saying, “I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about.”
Maybe all of this support is saying something and saying it loud: it’s okay to take a stand and sit. This protest isn’t a middle finger to the flag, but a double thumbs up to making a change.