Colin Kaepernick & the Question of Patriotism


Rice:  Kaepernick… Thoughts?

Wood:  I have so many.  I think he was well within his right to not stand.  And it’s funny to me that people pick and choose to when they want to claim outrage.  Donald Trump didn’t put his hand on his heart during the anthem and that’s okay.  Gabby Douglas doesn’t do it and there is a fire storm.

Hypocrisy is alive and well.  Just months ago we were celebrating Ali, a man that had his title stripped from him for open protest of this country.  Now, a man doesn’t stand because he has an issue with a song that glorifies slavery and they are burning his jerseys and calling for his job.  Does it make it okay because they left the slavery parts out?  Why do people fail to realize I can love my country and not like every aspect of it?

I love the United States.  But United States has some serious f*cked qualities like any other country.  What makes our democracy great is the fact I can question it and its practices.  At any point that I can’t question it’s practices is when I will no longer respect it as a democracy.

Rice: Kaepernick is free to do what he wants. That is the beauty of free speech.  And I haven’t yet heard him whine about the backlash, so there is that.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with the third stanza of the song (I should be ashamed, I suppose, all things considered), and if his reasoning had been remotely related to that I might not have much of an issue with it. But his rationale was:

“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.”

I’m not going to pretend that things are perfect in the US. I’ve admitted as much before. We’ve got a long way to go, but at some level we need to acknowledge how far we have come.  As liberal Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson said, America, “is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protections of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of those of Africa.”

I’m still looking for some better context for the above quote.

To me this is akin to the saying that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

My assessment of the situation:

  • Man is being paid $9 million/year to be a mediocre professional game player (Looks like Gabbert is gonna be starting for SF this year).
  • The country he is protesting not only gives him the opportunity to play a game for a living it grants him the freedom to protest (which he is taking advantage of).
  • So from this guy this particular protest rings a bit hollow to me

All in all I disagree with his method of protest, his reasoning for this particular protest, and his overall assessment of the state of this nation.  But he is free to use the fame that society has bestowed upon him to say what he will. You just can’t get mad at the people who disagree with him for using the same freedom to express their dissent…unless they make threats.

[Also] I thought the brouhaha with Gabby Douglas was stoopid. Lochte probably should pay a fine a minimum for being a drunken tool.

Ali’s title was stripped, not by the government, but by the boxing commission. The only organizations that have the right to discipline him are his employers and that is assuming that there is a conduct clause in the contract that could be construed to govern this type of protest. I think that would cause a bigger ruckus than either the NFL or the 49ers organization would want though, ironically, it would illustrate Kaepernick’s point.  I don’t see that happening for precisely that reason.

Kev: The whole thing is absurd and hilarious to me on a number of levels:  On one level you have the issue of the anthem.  I also didn’t know about the third verse in the anthem about slavery, the fact that the Star Spangled Banner didn’t become our anthem until 1931, or the historical context in which the anthem was written.  Now that all of this has come to light, I completely understand someone, especially a black someone, not wanting to stand [for the anthem] for those reasons.

The next level is the backlash against what Kaepernick was protesting:  Police brutality.  The backlash Kaepernick has received for protesting police brutality and taking a stance for criminal justice reform is the same backlash we have heard for the last few years since this topic has been part of the national discussion.  The usual pushback is bringing up black on black crime, saying black people should invest in their communities, and saying the absurd, “All Lives Matter,” or, “Blue Lives Matter,” as if black people aren’t already cognizant and involved with issues in the community.  People make political statements, using their platforms of influence, all the time about animals, LGBT rights, disease awareness, and other issues important to them.  We are a little over 50 years removed – give or take a few years depending on your town –  from white supremacy being a national policy.  Just because the law changes doesn’t mean the societal systems change overnight.  I think we can agree that there is still work to be done.

Another level is this ridiculous notion of what it means to be patriotic.  Since 9/11, any mere criticism of firemen, policemen, or armed service members is seen in the same light as burning a flag.  The military doesn’t define what the national anthem or flag stand for, rather the military defends what it stands for.  The NFL, in particular, is full of it for using issues such as patriotism and breast cancer awareness as part of its PR campaign.  The Pentagon literally takes our tax dollars and pays the NFL to honor armed service members.  In exchange, the NFL gets to wrap itself in the flag, sell a line of American military-themed merchandise, and further market itself as, “America’s Game.”  When taking all of these optics into consideration, it’s no wonder Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem caused a lot of Americans to clutch their pearls.  I have, will, and will forever be in favor of criticizing every facet of America, at every turn.  The great James Baldwin said it best: “I love America more than any other country in this world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Last, Kaepernick has said, on the record, specifically what he was protesting and that his actions were not meant as disrespect to the military.  So to take his act of protest as an insult to the military – And I am talking to you, Alex Boone – is a weak attempt at interpreting someone else’s actions for them.

Which, to be fair, is kind of what we are doing right now, right?