By sitting, a quarterback takes a stand

For all the talk of freedom, nothing gets us riled up more than people using it.

The latest is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remained seated during the playing of the National Anthem on Saturday.

“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 told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

That’s not a position that’s everyone’s cup of tea. Neither is it the Lindbergh kidnapping.

Kaepernick, by sitting, is standing for something. How often does that happen among athletes anymore? “This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

It should give Outrage Nation something to do for a few days.

“There are some 1,200 African-American players who will make NFL rosters this year, and you can count on one finger those who will take on the subject of race in America the way Kaepernick is,” Sports Illustrated’s Peter King writes this morning. “The reaction has been intense. Asked about it Sunday afternoon, one NFL head coach said, ‘My f—ing guys will stand for the anthem! And they want to!’”

A postscript: I like Kaepernick’s action. We want players to speak freely and tell the truth—until they do it, and then we want them back in the same boring mold. Good for Kaepernick to exercise his First Amendment right of free speech, which you rarely hear a current player do.

For his sake, I hope he has some thick skin this Thursday and on days following, when he’s sure to get pushback on his recent actions.

For people who know the man, this weekend wasn’t a big surprise. Three years ago, Kaepernick told me: “I want to try to break that perfect football mold. I don’t want to be someone who can be put into a category.” In one weekend, he accomplished that.

“A lot of guys try to stay out of the political limelight because you have things like endorsements, you have fans, and all these other things that you represent,” Malcolm Jenkins, of the Philadelphia Eagles, said.

“But when it comes down to it, especially when you’re talking about the relationship of African-Americans in this country right now. … My entire family is black, and I can sit on my stage and act like these things don’t apply to me, but my two younger brothers, my cousins, my dad, my mom — all of them are dealing with those same things. … I think guys in multiple sports across this country are starting to realize that if we do want to change, then this is probably something that we’ll need to get involved in at some point.”

Jason Page, of NBC Sports, says the flag stands for more than the law enforcement community and politicians.

It stands for the guy who jumped into the flood waters in Louisiana to save a complete stranger and her dog from a car that was sinking into a watery grave. It stands for the volunteers who will spend the foreseeable future in that same community helping those in need.

There are examples of the world that upsets Kaepernick and leads him to his decision to boycott the national anthem. But I can also point to countless examples of the people of this country that show the very best of what that flag represents.

While I may find Colin Kaepernick’s boycotting of the national anthem to be short-sighted, I also will vigorously defend his right to stand for something he believes in.

I’ve heard people say things that intimate the 49ers should release Kaepernick. Others point to the nearly $17,000,000 he is making this season alone as a rationale for why he should stand during the anthem. Neither of these positions makes all that much sense. Whether you are poor or wealthy, you have just the same right to voice your opinion on something that is of importance to you.

Some fans burned Kaepernick’s jersey, which, of course, they had the — say it with me — freedom to do.

Kaepernick, who isn’t a very good quarterback anymore, will probably be cut this week and his playing days may well be over.

But he’s stirred up a controversy not seen in pro sports since John Carlos and Tommy Smith clenched their fits on an Olympic medal stand in 1968.

America, the home of the brave, survived just fine.

  • Mike

    Why do we have to play the national anthem before sporting events?

    Why can’t it just be about a game, rather than some ridiculous expression of nationalism?

    What is it about athletic events that makes people believe flag-waving is required?

    • wjc

      This is a very good and important comment. Thank you.

    • >>Why can’t it just be about a game, rather than some ridiculous expression of nationalism?<<

      Because 'Murica!

      /I agree with you
      //And hate that insipid "USA" chant as well.

    • Dan

      “God Bless America” has to be played now, too, apparently, along with the salutes to veterans. Part of the answer is the DoD paying millions to NFL teams. And then, after it became normal (bordering on “tradition), politicians get offended that teams didn’t just think it up themselves and do it gratis.

      • Mike

        Right. The “selling of the Pentagon” was controversial during the Vietnam era. Since 9/11, however, the military-industrial complex has so enveloped our entire culture that no one blinks an eye at it, and it’s considered unpatriotic to even question it.

        What’s the old adage? To find out who rules you, first find out whom you’re not allowed to criticize.

      • Mike Worcester

        The playing of God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch of Sunday baseball games was mandated by MLB starting two(?) seasons ago.

    • Ryan Coleman

      I believe tradition dictates it, not a requirement, but I would love to get a constitutional scholar in here to help us out.

      • jon

        There was no national anthem before 1931 when the star spangled banner was adopted.

        There was however baseball in 1876 (National League), and the MLB in 1903, so I’m guessing that the constitution (ratified in 1788) probably has little to say on the topic.
        The word “anthem” doesn’t appear at all in the constitution nor any of its amendments.

        Guessing that much like the pledge of allegiance being read in class rooms it started as a bit patriotism, probably during a war, (or a cold war in the case of the pledge) and just never went away.

        Edit: wikipedia says “In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played at military and other appropriate occasions. The playing of the song two years later during the seventh-inning stretch of Game One of the 1918 World Series, and thereafter during each game of the series is often cited as the first instance that the anthem was played at a baseball game,[10] though evidence shows that the “Star-Spangled Banner” was performed as early as 1897 at opening day ceremonies in Philadelphia and then more regularly at the Polo Grounds in New York City beginning in 1898. In any case, the tradition of performing the national anthem before every baseball game began in World War II.[11]”

        • Ryan Coleman

          “As American as apple pie” comes to mind.

          It’s a ritual, not a requirement, except in the eyes of the managing organization and a sign of respect to play the other country’s anthem (in the case of MLB and NHL).

          My point was that it goes a bit far when someone says “we have always done it” because, well, we haven’t always done it. The NFL, NHL and MLB all predate the adoption of F.S. Key’s poem to music as the National Anthem.

          I, for one, would like to see us go back to the Pledge before the 1950s but solely as a personal choice and not a requirement. I know I was required to do it in grade school (1980s and 90s)… part of me hopes that is no longer a requirement.
          I stand behind my country but I do not believe in a god. Or gods. Or goddesses.

          But I believe in my country. And my fellow countrymen. And those who are here but did not come from here. And those who are here and want to think they came from here. And those who are not here but wish they were here. And those who will come after us.

          Because ‘Murica.

    • At least with football, one scholar suggested, football and war is intertwined and both lend themselves to “flag waving.”

    • Alex

      Personal opinion here, but I see it as a reminder that while both sides are playing against each other, it is just a game, and (win or lose) we are all one nation in the end.

  • Rob

    Kaepernick may not be a very good QB anymore, but it doesn’t make his taking a stand any less brave and exceptional. Maybe it’ll even inspire some other gazillionaire ballplayers to do likewise.

    • >>Maybe it’ll even inspire some other gazillionaire ballplayers to do likewise.<<

      After their playing days of course. They wouldn't want to upset their sponsors.

  • BJ

    Funny – 2 years ago he signed a 6 year contract, ~54 Million in guaranteed money. 2 Years of so so playing and season ending shoulder surgery last year.

  • Sam M

    He can do whatever he wants. I just hope that he understands why some people may be offended and hurt by what he did. He would actually make more of an impact if maybe he acknowledged those people who have fought and died for the freedom that afforded him the right to do what he did.

    • >>He would actually make more of an impact if maybe he acknowledged those people who have fought and died for the freedom that afforded him the right to do what he did.<<

      I disagree.

      It would water down his originally intended message by doing that.

      • Sam M

        See above. So it’s watered down now?

        The hard line you seem to suggest is exactly what is wrong with public discourse in today’s world. We fail to recognize that issues and opinions are more complicated and there can be a little nuance once in a while.

        Seems to me we would all make a little more progress if we watered down our rhetoric a little.

        • >>The hard line you seem to suggest is exactly what is wrong with public discourse in today’s world.<<

          All I said was, "I disagree" and gave my opinion as to why I disagree.

          That's a "hard line?" Really?

          • Sam M

            The hard line is him not acknowledging how his position might offend others and speaking to their concerns. You said that would water it down.

          • >>The hard line is him not acknowledging how his position might offend others and speaking to their concerns.<<

            Of course he knew that would happen, that was his intent.

    • public defenders?

    • rallysocks

      Well, he did say this: “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”

      • Sam M

        Just saw that. Thanks for pointing out. Bravo to him then.

    • BReynolds33

      He has acknowledged the people who fought and died for his freedoms. He has done so explicitly in the past, and has done so implicitly by exercising those rights.

  • ec99

    I wonder to what extent people are tired of celebrities of all political stripes exploiting their media access to pontificate on their favorite cause.

    • Gary F

      One of the reasons the ratings are diving for all the TV/Movie awards shows.

    • Dan

      Republicans are tired of this to a large extent, until they hear a celebrity who thinks like them. Then you get Clint Eastwood vs. Chair.

    • Rob

      My feeling is that it generally takes power to speak truth to power, and I relish seeing more A-level athletes leveraging their status in aid of worthy causes.

  • Gary F

    I hope he’s managed his money well. I’m doubting he’ll get signed as a backup.

    • Dan

      …just ask Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Prior to this I’d thought Kap, even if cut, would land somewhere as a backup.

      Listening to his interview today, he seemed to have an understanding of the likely outcome and made peace with it.

    • Someone will sign him…

      • Gary F

        He just causes non-game related internal friction within the locker room, he’s done. It the high dollar game of pro football, owners won’t put up with that.

        • Then he’ll just take his millions and walk. He seems to be ready to do just that.

    • Rob

      Even if he isn’t the best at managing his assets, it’ll take him awhile to blow through his ginormous pile of wealth.

  • rallysocks

    >>For all the talk of freedom, nothing gets us riled up more than people using it.<<

    Boy howdy! Do you have that right! I have been being FB-stalked and harassed by a couple of dudes who do not grasp that what I am saying is: Whether you agree with what he did or not, it is his RIGHT to do so and we aren't going to get anywhere by shouting rude, inflammatory comments and then running away. And the irony in demanding that someone NOT exercise their right is sailing pretty high above their heads.

  • Jennifer Battan

    I posted about this on facebook earlier today, and one friend disagreed with my point (re: freedom of speech) and pointed out that Kaepernick has a really big stage and a really big voice and could actually DO SOMETHING rather than just sit down to ‘make a point.’ Another friend posted an article about the 2nd and 3rd verses of the anthem actually having references to slavery. Maybe we don’t all know what we think we know.

    • jon

      So I looked up the other verses, the 3rd verse makes reference to slaves…

      “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
      That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
      A home and a country, should leave us no more?
      Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
      No refuge could save the hireling and slave
      From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
      And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
      O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

      But it sounds like it’s the slaves of the british, no mention of American slaves that I could spot… I don’t know if that makes it any better or not… I don’t even know enough about slavery in england during the war of 1812 to say if it was largely along racial lines like it was in the US…

      • Fred, Just Fred

        The very first people England enslaved were the Irish.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Thanks, but I’ve seen the revisionist apologies and obfuscations before. Personally I think the reprobates did a better job with the holocaust, but you’re impressed, which is good, I guess.

          • “Revisionist apologies”…yeah, sure.

            I guess I should have just done the “Citation needed” in response to your original post.


            With that out of the way…

            >>The very first people England enslaved were the Irish.<<

            Citation Needed.

          • Fred, Just Fred


            Nice lefty website…thought you’d appreciate that.

            Most public school scholars don’t know it, but the plantation system was first installed in Ireland in 1582. Almost 100 years before the first African slaves were transported to America.


            Just so we know how deep the rabbit hole is going to go here, do you believe the holocaust is a myth concocted by wealthy Jewish bankers, too?

            BTW, see you deleted the link to the “Independent researcher and librarian” denier…good call.

          • Rob

            The Rutgers article does not indicate that the Irish were enslaved and forced to work on the plantations. Displaced by the land grabs, yes. And as to the history of English slavery practices, what about serfdom, which kinda predates Irish plantations.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Who do you think worked those plantations, my man? Leprechauns? The English Lords?

            No, of course not. It was the former owners, who had been reduced to, wait for it…serfdom.

            Deniers of the Irish holocaust play word games. Indentured servant isn’t a slave, they say. But somehow, I’m guessing that the nuanced difference between the “meaning of isn’t” was lost on the hundreds of thousands of Irish that were sold, transported to Barbados and America to be beaten, starved, forcibly bred with African men (until a 1681 law forbade it), and worked to death.

          • jon

            That was my thought at seeing the above…

            I’m willing to bet that the first people enslaved by almost any group of people is a sub culture of that same group… Willing venture a guess in most cases it’s women and the poor who are first to end up being treated as property.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            From the Rutgers link:

            Oliver Cromwell led an army of 12,000 men (mostly hardened veterans of the Civil War) in August 1649 to Dublin. This force immediately marched north towards the walled town of Drogheda, which was besieged, sacked and pillaged with the loss of around 1,000 Irish troops and as many as 3,000 civilians, with many of the survivors being sold into slavery.

            None so ignorant as those who will not read…

      • Hopefully this helps clear it up for ya:

        “And one of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves.”

        “Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.” Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.

        “Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

        “So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”

        “After the U.S. and the British signed a peace treaty at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American “property,” which by that point numbered about 6,000 people. The British refused. Most of the 6,000 eventually settled in Canada, with some going to Trinidad, where their descendants are still known as “Merikins.””

  • Today I learned: The third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates slavery.

    In the words of Jackie Robinson:

    “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

  • Fred, Just Fred

    I don’t fly the American flag at home anymore. I do stand for the national anthem, but truth be told, there isn’t much conviction behind the act. My reasons align with Kaepernick’s in the abstract, but I’m sure we’d disagree on most details of why the American flag has lost its luster for us. We just agree it’s not the America we want.

    I think that is true for many, if not most Americans. For instance, we have many leftists defending Kaepernick’s right to make a political statement, but I wonder how they would react if he said he was protesting the SCOTUS decision on abortion, or the gay wedding deal. I’m kidding of course, we don’t have to wonder.

    The truth is, when people say they love America, or “freedom” for that matter, fully ½ of the population are thinking of reasons to love it that the other ½ would object to; and our objections are getting harsher…for instance, some leftists have actually begun spitting at people who are exercising their freedom of speech…and I have read others describe that disgusting behavior in glowing terms.

    Our divisions are as deep as they have ever been. But worse, we cannot even agree on the most basic truths; we pervert science and human biology to support our foregone conclusions. The shared values and goals that brought the first groups of immigrants to America are anathema to many today. We have evolved from agreeing to disagree to outright hatred of one another.

    The United States is simply too populated. Even at the state level, urban dwellers look at their rural neighbors like they are from another planet, and the rural folks look right back with the same derision. We are reaching the ebb of our shared identity and that lack of common interest is destroying us; my God, just look at what we have for choices for President…oops, there I have gone and offended secular humanist and atheist readers, right there.

    Personally, I don’t think we can stand together too much longer.

    A favorite leftist talking point is “Texas should secede”; conservatives say the same about California. Maybe it’s time to open a national dialogue about splitting up. We all deserve a flag that represents a country we can respect.

    • Rob

      It would be nice to see Texas succeed – at being a progressive state.

    • >>A favorite leftist talking point is “Texas should succeed”<<

      I'm sure we'd ALL like them to succeed, except for the Dallas Stars. Norm Green still sucks.

      /Yes, I know Green left the team a while back.

    • jon

      “my God, just look at what we have for choices for President…oops, there I have gone and offended secular humanist and atheist readers, right there”

      You are welcome to your God… just don’t tell me about mine.

      Though far more offensive than you having a god is you deciding what does and does not offend me… I’m my own person and can make my own decisions, of course that’s the same pesky freedom you were talking about earlier…

      I should also point out that Abrahamic religions (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) are the ones with rules about taking the lord’s name in vain not Humanists and Atheists.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        1/2″ same as 30,000′ when you’re working over heads. Sorry, didn’t mean to get you all triggered and stuff.

  • kat

    I especially like that he has done this before- no one cared/noticed. I’m sure Mr Kaepernick can handle the “outrage” directed at him since his coach and the league support his right.
    I am glad that someone finally did notice so he could make his point, and I am glad that he is speaking out.

    • rallysocks

      I’ve been wondering what sparked the attention to this time.

      I’m also wondering why an American exercising their rights, in perhaps the most important and most definitive right we have is considered un-American.

      Another wonder i have is that we’ve been told that we shouldn’t be mean to the wealthy because they earned that money by hard work and now it’s, “He’s filthy rich–he should shut up about oppression” or “he should be using his money to make his point and/or change.”

  • Mike Worcester

    //America, the home of the brave, survived just fine.

    We certainly did.

    We’ll survive this so-called outrage against society also.

    And we’ll survive whatever comes next, no matter how meme-creating it will be.

  • lindblomeagles

    I honestly don’t get worked up about someone sitting during the national anthem as others do. A long time ago, the United States sold slaves while singing that same national anthem and taking pride in the values etched onto the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Times change. People change. For all we know, Colin is starting his own change, a career from football to something else, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing given this has been a trying time in his football career. It’s easy to criticize an individual who doesn’t look like the mainstream, debunks traditionalism, and articulates a message we either don’t agree with or are uncomfortable discussing. For what its worth, I hope Colin’s sit down will motivate us to pause and reflect, not on what it means to be an American, and maybe not on our current racial divide, but why we’re afraid to have deeper conversations with one another.

  • Gary F

    In a few weeks, maybe months, Colin can sit and watch pro football over at Peyton Manning’s house and count their millions.

  • Tyler

    More power to Kaepernick for exercising his freedom of speech. Unfortunately, we’re spending more time talking about him, rather than what he’s trying to convey.