Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been protesting what he calls "unjust" actions in this country by refusing to stand during the pre-game National Anthem. And his protest will continue. "I'll continue to sit," said Kaepernick on Sunday. "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."
In our latest Round Table, our team of writers was asked to share their thoughts on the Kaepernick controversy that has been dominating the headlines in recent days – and will likely continue to do so.
Initial thought is I have a knee-jerk reaction to disregard the opinions of athletes and celebrities when it comes to social issues and/or politics. But I do think that Kaepernick is making a thoughtful statement with what he may perceive as a waning opportunity to use his celebrity. I definitely don't think he's focused or necessarily motivated to play football at this point in his life, but he has every right to do what he's doing and his perception of what's wrong in this country is one that is being communicated in far more destructive and controversial ways all the time, at least this is a civil and peaceful act of protest. Anyone who prescribes more meaning and ceremony to our national anthem is entitled to do so, but just as with religion, they have no right nor point to forcing that feeling on somebody else. I'm not crazy at how he's expressing himself, but I must acknowledge it's effectiveness. My only real critique of what he's doing would be that he's given no indication of what specifically needs to change for him to feel differently. He knew people would get upset by his refusal to stand for the anthem, he did it for a reason, so what's the resolution to that reason? Nobody's expecting a political roadmap from Blaine Gabbert's backup, but at this point in the conversation it would be refreshing for someone to take it a step further.
Part of being a citizen of this country is exercising freedom of speech. Kaepernick is exercising that right. From a humanitarian standpoint, his heart is in the right place. From a respect standpoint, he needs to understand that the United States and the citizens of the United States are like a team. There will be people on the team that don't get along with each other, but those differences must be put aside for the team to grow. Unfortunately, Kaepernick's actions are forcing people to choose a side, which is creating a larger divide.
Colin Kaepernick is paid to throw a football. That's his job. He's a quarterback for the National Football League. This is going to become a huge distraction for him because it's something other than football that he has to focus on now. Moreover, this has become a distraction to the team because they know that the entire country has put the focus on the 49ers (fairly or unfairly) on account of 1 player's actions. Personally, I think he's committed career suicide, not because of the cause, but by the way he's bringing attention to it.
Some perspective is also needed because if Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers would have spoken out about a political issue, they probably would have garnered a little more respect based off of their current start status among their peers, fans and the media. However, Kaepernick's star has faded and he made the mistake of painting all police officers with a broad brush when it's a very small minority that are misbehaving.
There are few things more sacred to any country than its flag and national anthem. While what Kaepernick is saying is true - there is an abundance of violence involving law enforcement - taking such a stand the way that he did ends up dividing the country more. This might be one of those situations where Kaepernick looks back on in the future and says "I wish I had handled this differently." If his choice is that being a social activist is more important than being a good quarterback, then he's going to have to live with whatever (good or bad) comes with that decision.
Stewart M. Cockrell
As the proud son of a proud veteran, here are my thoughts on the situation.
I have always viewed our National Anthem and our flag with a high reverence. I think they are two of this country's most endearing symbols that should be shown the respect that it is deserved and earned. Too many men and women have lived, served, and died in its honor for us to not show it this respect. That being said, I am also an American that strongly believes in my 1st Amendment rights, as well as the 1st Amendment rights of my fellow Americans. The thing about free speech is that it isn't always pretty. Colin will have to live with the backlash (and support) he is receiving at the current moment and into the future.
Do I have a problem with Kaepernick not standing during the National Anthem? Not really to be honest. It is his right as a red blooded American not too. And in a way, it pays just as much tribute to those that have fought and died for his right to do so. Frankly, if you are like me and have attended a major sporting event in the last ten years, you will notice a lot more disrespect from the fans in attendance during the playing of the National Anthem, but that is a topic for another time. Would most of us like to see him make a statement in a different way? Of course we would. But then again, free speech isn't always pretty is it?
I'm on record as saying I'm not a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick the player, but in this instance I can be a fan of Colin Kaepernick the American. For those of you that say he should shut up and play football, could the same be said to those of you burning his jersey in protest? Why not shut up and go back to your job too? It is your right to do so I suppose, even if it comes off as childish, but then again, free speech isn't always pretty is it?
Before you go running him out of the country for being American enough to exercise his 1st Amendment rights, maybe we should take a moment to be thankful that he has this right and we have the right to support or criticize his actions as we see fit. Seems to me that is something to hold in in pretty high reverence as well.
In my estimation, the debate over what Colin Kaepernick did before last Friday night's game and what he had to say afterward can be boiled down to one question: is this the land of the free?
As a prior service US Marine, I have a unique perspective on this. To me, the National Anthem and the National Ensign are to be revered. To me, both are representative of the courage and selflessness of those who have answered the call to service. My perspective on both is a reflection of my life experience, my time in the Corps, and my view of the Country. But that doesn't really answer the question posed earlier, does it? Is this the land of the free? Because that is the heart of this issue...freedom.
Freedom is tricky business, kids. Real freedom is celebrating the right of every single person in this country to speak their mind, to worship as they see fit, and to peacefully protest that which they feel is unjust. We may not always agree with what our fellow Americans have to say...but they are free do to so.
When I was sworn in at MEPS in Oakland, the oath that all present were asked to recite went as follows: "I, Armand Bolino, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Some of you are upset at Kap for showing disrespect to the men and women who have stood in service to this country. I ask you to look at it this way: the men and women who stand in service to this country have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. That document guarantees Colin Kaepernick the right to peaceful protest. He's doing that which every single American has the right to do, and nothing more.
Do I agree with Kap's actions? No, though I believe his position has merit. For my own reasons, I hold the Ensign and the Anthem in very high regard. But make no mistake...though I do not approve his actions, I would fight to guarantee his freedom...because the moment we deny freedom to one, the freedom of all has been compromised. Having sworn to uphold and defend the law of the land, I can do nothing but acknowledge a fellow American's right to peaceful protest. And so should you.
Ray Woodson from KNBR said it best when he tweeted "I'm way more offended by the treatment of minorities in this country than some guy not standing."
That quote puts Kap's actions in their proper perspective.
He clearly isn't the ideal spokesperson for this issue given 1.) his polarizing personality and (in my opinion) 2.) his inability to clearly articulate the complexities of the cause he's bringing attention to.
But make no mistake, his cause is a just one and in time his simple act of defiance could be seen as an inflection point in the struggle for minorities of all kinds to be seen, treated and respected as equals in the eyes of those that simply do not.
By: Bob Marley
Date: September 5, 2016 at 2:48 PM
Comment: way to go Kap, u are so-o justified in your actions, really, not like your shooting innocent civilians because their black aye! hope u get back in your with the pig skin
By: Roger Ide
Date: September 4, 2016 at 11:44 AM
Comment: If anyone thinks that minorities are treated poorly in this country they should get their butts down in those communities and do something to help. How many times has he gone into minority class rooms and talked to the kids. How much time has he spent volunteering. It's easy to blame someone else for a problem instead of doing something yourself. A sign of weakness is to blame someone else. His stand only divides the country more. Get educated get a job and obey the law. Otherwise find another country where you have a better opportunity.
By: D. Reyburn
Date: September 3, 2016 at 3:32 PM
Comment: If the 49ers don't discipline Kap for at least his use of socks to protest, then I for one will cease to support the team. This bad apple in the barrel is bringing shame to a once proud team! Why he wasn't canned is beyond common sense.
Date: September 3, 2016 at 11:18 AM
Comment: Overblown. If this started next Sunday it would not have gotten much coverage. It has been a slow news cycle
By: Bob Jarman
Date: September 2, 2016 at 9:44 PM
Comment: So many issues with Colin are being skirted here and I will address them! I'm a spec ops Combat veteran and I've worked with law enforcement. He has a right to do it if he wants and I have a right to hate what he is doing! I personally believe if Colin was a franchise QB right now he'd not be doing this, but that's me. Colin explained in an interview how he is against the repression of people of color in America, black males dead in the streets and cops getting paid leave. Yet, he's wearing a Fidel Castro shirt and Fidel is responsible for the deaths, false imprisonment and disappearance of tens of thousands people of color! 2% of blacks are killed by cops and 93% are killed by mostly other blacks in our inner cities! BLM are thugs and anarchists who want to see USA burn, not justice! Black witnesses are why cop got off in Ferguson and in Milwaukee, black cop shot black criminal and BLMers looked for whites to beat down! No justice there, just anarchy and that is BLM! Colin needs to learn the facts and people need to unite, but the left pushes the divide and we will fall if not united and the anarchists win! Be objective people and research and keep an open mind!
Date: September 2, 2016 at 12:51 PM
Comment: The NFL opened the tent with pink cleats, denied Dallas police support and now the Kap show. I pay to watch my team not a protest. Goodbye to the NFL.
By: Xue Vue
Date: September 1, 2016 at 5:34 PM
Comment: Kap I think you've done job, the world is aware, you done it better then anyone else to get the message and people aware, now let the chip fall and the people to take care of it, I say tonight just stand to prove everyone wrong, because the message is already out there. Stand for your self, stand for the world, stand for thr fan, stand because you just wanted to send a message, and the world heard it.
By: Fred Hobbs
Date: September 1, 2016 at 10:49 AM
Comment: If this issue is important to you, as it should be, do your homework. Find out what is truly going on out there from a large variety of sources. Hit the pavement! Go volunteer to work with police. Don't let the shallow minded media warp your sensibilities. Anger does not serve us brothers. Knowledge does. Look farther! For god's sake before more anger causes more needless pain.
By: Fred Hobbs
Date: September 1, 2016 at 10:11 AM
Comment: The American Flag does not stand for lawless, repressive & heinous acts. It stands for each of us good and decent Americans willing to work and die for individual liberty. We had a lot of work to do when we started in 1776 and we still do but that flag represents far, far more good over the years than bad.
In addition, just a thought, maybe a lot, not all, of the police incidents can be explained by something other than racism. Try fear. It is a scary job being a policeman. A target. I think a lot of police don't handle the fear well. I think we would be well served to make sure we are not reacting to this like emotional children.
By: John Harris
Date: September 1, 2016 at 8:34 AM
Comment: The headlines "Military Support Kaepernic" are somewhat misleading. Most say they support his right to say and act as he pleases. I agree. As a Vietnam Vet and Civil Rights Vet I think it may be misdirected. In the 60-70's we protested due to the laws of this country giving people the right to discriminate. There are no laws for the USA to change to get what he is protesting. It is about changing the hearts and minds of some and force the few bad cops to obey the laws. Also to use the laws to jail those policemen who take Black lives wrongly.
By: Captain Donald L Jackson USN ret
Date: September 1, 2016 at 1:00 AM
Comment: Bullies don't protect our flag. I am surprised that so many vets are calling Kap names, berating him and burning jerseys! "Remember I may disagree with what you say but will defend with my life your right to say it!" Such is the America of true patriots.
We, in the military defend all our freedoms for every citizen, including the freedom of speech! Even after your military service in civie land.
We do have a serious problem of oppressive actions against our minority communities . I stand with Kap to protest these horrific killing. The one that got me most was the 13 yr old with a play gun killed by the police instructor for these situations (in Santa Rosa CA), emptying his clip into the boy! One shot to the leg wasn't enough to slow down the threat of a 13 year old boy with a play gun? Numerous killing of young men and children have followed. I'm sick of it and it is sick. USA is a killing zone, we don't need assault weapons to hunt Lets work to change that together instead of sending wrath and hate towards the messenger!! Kaps stand takes courage to bring attention to the police brutality and the wasting of young lives.
God bless you Kap, I stand with you. DJ Rocklin, CA
By: Dallas Niner fan
Date: August 31, 2016 at 3:28 PM
Comment: I guess what offends me the most about this is the nonchalant attitude everyone has here and elsewhere about what Kap did. The focus is on freedom of speech and the right to protest. Even though Its pretty obvious that these rights exist. There is no focus however, on the lack of respect and the lack of gratitude of the action. I find that to be quite sad. The other thing I find to be quite disturbing about this is how divided our nation is right now. Black verses white, conservative verses liberal. Don't know where this divided national attitude will lead, but I know that this country is not in a good place right now. I will always remember how this country came together after 9/11. Black and white, democrat and republican all came together. Everyone at the time honored the flag and chants of USA, USA filled our sports stadiums. What happened to that unity?
By: Kenneth Harrison
Date: August 31, 2016 at 3:17 PM
Comment: He did the right thing! I know the 49ers office doesn't agree but he did. Now you heard him say it, (Liberty, and Justice for All) But all those who are complaining are so use to (Liberty and justice for some) And how dare you compare him to Ray Curruth! He is a murderer, and people are posting him as a terrorist! 9/11 was a terrorist, and Boston marathon bombing, those are terrorist. Kap, I wish I could sit in with you, and I will at home , and anywhere else, until our country love us as much as we love! God bless America and every one!
Date: August 31, 2016 at 1:04 PM
Comment: Ironically, we disrespect the flag most by not supporting protest. Protest is the foundation by which this country was formed. That beautiful flag would have it no other way. This is danger with nationalism, something that continues to grow and be driven by the right. You don't get to pick and choose your freedoms. You don't get to claim your right to bear arms, then deny the right of another to protest peacefully. That's hypocrisy in its highest form.
Our forefathers would be the first ones to support his right to protest. That flag is not here for just the military or police, it is there for everyone. It's for the blacks who were murdered during the civil rights movement, the women who have been held down by men for hundreds of years, and each and every minority group that has had to fight their way to the top. You don't own it and you don't get to define it. It's already been defined. You and I are simply under its protection while we're here. God willing it will be here a long time after we're gone.
Date: August 31, 2016 at 12:35 PM
Comment: Dude doesn’t want to stand, his decision. He doesn’t owe you, he doesn’t owe me. This whole nationalistic scene that’s being driven by the right is far more dangerous. That flag doesn’t represent just the military, it represents everyone; dead, alive, brave, weak, productive, destitute, happy, not happy; everyone. You don’t own it; you don’t even get to define it. It is already defined by one word, one term: Freedom. We should be far more afraid of Nationalism, than protest. Nationalism gave rise of Hitler, Mussolini and countless other dictators (The Donald?). History is our best teacher; we ignore it at our own peril.
By: AZ49er Fan
Date: August 31, 2016 at 11:11 AM
Comment: Trade him and get everything or anything you can. He wants out of SF and now that his contract is guaranteed he will be a cancer the longer he lingers in SF.. ' H Rapp' Kapernick is still trying to stick it to Balke and Jed with the hair and his sudden fascination with BLM. He sounds just like a privledged15 year old high shool kid protesting he can't wear a black power tee shirt to school. If he really gives a damn, he should be protesting the slaughter of blacks in Chicago by BLACK PEOPLE.