I remember in elementary school when every morning, we were told to stand for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. As children, we never really asked why we did that, nor did we care much to know, but we would eventually learn that we stood as a sign of respect and nationalism for our country—The United States of America. Every day, we did this, ignorant and benighted to the actual meaning behind the words we recited with such false confidence. My time in elementary school was plenty of years ago, and at the time, what child would have thought that someday, there would be someone disobeying the ‘rules’ of standing for America’s theme song?
Former San Francisco 49er, Colin Kaepernick grabbed all headlines and blew up social media when he courageously took a road less traveled. On August 26th, 2016, number seven awed the crowd not by his astonishing athletic abilities, but by an extraordinary decision to kneel as the stadium stood for the National Anthem. Kaepernick has explained that his reason is to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. He refused to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. Since Kaepernick first did it, many other professional football players, high school athletes, and professional athletes in other sports have also refused to stand for the national anthem. These protests have brought about lots of controversy and has sparked public conversation about the protesters’ messages and how they’ve chosen to deliver them.
There are many people who agree with Kaepernick’s actions and have grown to become more loyal fans to him than ever before. After his kneeling debut in August, his jersey sales shot up like missiles. While some people burned his jersey, many others bought and wore it proudly.
Of course, varieties of opinions flutter around Kaepernick’s decisions, including my own, so I decided to ask around. I asked a Reinhardt University student, who chose to remain anonymous, about her thoughts on the situation. First, I made sure to ask if she was educated enough on the subject to give a worthy opinion. Then I asked her to share how she felt about Colin Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner. She immediately made the point to me that she had family members who had served in the United States military. “It is disrespectful to our soldiers who have and who are fighting for this country we are all blessed enough to call home. These soldiers courageously put their own lives at risk for us, and he doesn’t even respect them enough to simply stand for the National Anthem,” she explained. Just as many other reasons people continue to give for disagreeing with Kaepernick, her points were very military-based. Having military veterans a part of her family, it is what she relates to most and what means the most to her.
“It’s his right,” says another Reinhardt student-athlete, Xavier Carter. “But, I believe now, people [NFL athletes] are kneeling more because of the way Donald Trump feels about it than the original reason. They are against Trump and that’s what they are expressing.”
I am completely for Colin Kaepernick’s movement. I agree that it is his right to do what he’s doing, and he should be able to exercise that freely. Racial injustice is and has always been a huge issue in America. We need leaders, like Kaepernick, to take initiative for hopeful results. If we do nothing, things won’t change. Some say that his NFL platform isn’t the right one to use, but I think it only makes sense to use this platform. Part of this movement is to spread awareness, and what better place is there to do this than a stadium filled with thousands of people. I have the utmost respect for anyone who stands up, or kneels, for what they believe in. As I mentioned, it is courageous what Kaepernick has done. It is bold, and I believe it to be very honorable. Number seven is an inspirational man, and I am a fan.
Written by: Devin Francois