Colin Kaepernick: A true American patriot

Written by Madison House
Photo via Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

On August 26, 2016 the San Francisco 49ers arrived at Levi’s Stadium for their third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Colin Kaepernick, a Black American football player, sat down because he couldn’t support a country that turned a blind eye to systemic and institutional racism.

Although Black people make up only 13% of the American population, they account for 37% of prison inmates.

Black Americans use drugs at a fifth of the rate as white Americans, yet Black Americans are ten times as likely to end up in prison for drug-related convictions. At six times the rate of white people, one in three Black Americans is incarcerated. Unarmed, innocent Black men are shot by police while their children, siblings, spouses, and parents look on. The fear of violence and criminalization is constant in the lives of Black Americans.

This concept is far from new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest American traditions. The Declaration of Independence claimed freedom, liberty, and justice for all while a whole population of Black slaves was excluded from this freedom.

Historically, the qualities of the United States in which we pride ourselves so often have never applied to a large portion of the population. Yet, Black men fight American wars, are subject to American punishments, and are expected to stand up and sing about the greatness and freedom of America, which has never fully applied to them.

Kaepernick wasn’t sitting down to protest America; he was sitting down to protest the disconnect between “American” values and the treatment of Black Americans.

In the late 17th century, British-American colonists in what is now the United States were becoming increasingly frustrated with their lack of representation in the British government.

Thus, they took a more radical strategy and threw 46 tons of tea (equating to about $4 million in current value) into the Boston Harbor on September 19, 1773 resulting in The “Boston Tea Party”.

We became a country because some patriotic men desired equality so much that they were willing to break the boundaries of cultural custom.

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In January 1917, at the beginning of World War I, Alice Paul led a group of women through the National Women’s Party in protest, in which American women chained themselves to the White House for the right to vote.

Consequently, countless of women were arrested.

In prison, they were beaten, dragged, thrown, and tortured for asking to be granted access to the American Constitution. Paul’s hunger strike to protest their treatment resulted in weeks of women being force-fed until they vomited, a violent form of torture.

Thanks to the years of Alice Paul’s passionate and drastic protest, women were granted the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.

In 1955 Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, breaking American segregation laws of the time. She was considered a rebel, a rebel who was violating an approved, supposedly constitutional law.

Eventually, her label of “rebel” became one of “patriot” because she wasn’t fighting against the U.S. Constitution, she was fighting for the U.S. Constitution.

A year after the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, bus segregation was declared unconstitutional, thanks to Parks and her colleagues who challenged normalcy in the name of America.

Throughout history, many have seen American patriotism as full-blown support of the president and of the government. However, American ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, all have a foundation in protest. We owe most of our human rights to “disrespectful” and “unpatriotic” dissent.

If you believe that Alice Paul, the Sons of Liberty, and Rosa Parks should’ve stayed silent in fear of disrespecting the United States, read no further. This interpretation of patriotism allows no room for protest.

As Americans, it’s our responsibility to challenge everything we know to be true in order to make the Constitution a reality.

Colin K protest while kneeling

So when Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes kneel during the National Anthem, is that patriotism?

Many self-proclaimed patriots want to silence the criticism of athletes regarding our country.

Many also ignore that their silence regarding issues of inequality is actually unpatriotic. As Americans, it’s not only our right but also our responsibility to challenge the government in order to create a country of freedom and equality.

Many want to argue that Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem before his football games to make a statement about police brutality and mass incarceration, the modern forms of discrimination against Black Americans, is unpatriotic. Or that the football field isn’t the right platform.

Then, what is the right forum? British ships? The White House? Public transportation? These forums certainly weren’t acceptable in their times.

AP Images

As athletes have the power and fame to make a difference, what right do we have to say they can’t speak up for a cause?

Others try to argue that because the playing of the national anthem is, in part, a tribute to military veterans, Kaepernick is disrespecting men and women fighting for our country. What many don’t recognize is Kaepernick’s conversations with veterans in his attempt to be as respectful as possible because his protest isn’t against veterans, it’s against culture, society, history, and government.After a conversation with a veteran, Kaepernick moved away from sitting on the bench for the anthem and began kneeling, as he was told this position would provide a more respectful platform for his protest.]

After a conversation with a veteran, Kaepernick moved away from sitting on the bench for the anthem and began kneeling, as he was told this position would provide a more respectful platform for his protest.

On the other side of the spectrum, many will argue that what Kaepernick’s doing isn’t nearly enough to fight the battle of American racism that’s been ongoing since 1619.

That’s true.

A few professional athletes kneeling for the national anthem is far from sufficient to achieve racial equality in America. But every bit counts, and this movement will open up conversation within communities that have the privilege of being able to ignore the issues that Kaepernick brings up.

How many white Americans have the much-needed conversation about racism in America?

It’s a difficult but a necessary conversation to have because change can only come once everyone recognizes that there’s a problem and gathers enough support to actually make a difference. Kaepernick’s platform, the football field, brings possibly ignorant white football fans into the loop.

Thus, Kaepernick’s movement is an essential starting point because the conversation of racial inequities has to have a place in white communities.

Kneeling for the national anthem can be seen as crude or thoughtless. Kaepernick’s actions can seem rude and radical, but that is the point of the American Constitution. Radical ideas and actions are what formed this country, formed what rights we do have, and formed our democracy.

American men didn’t need to throw over large boxes of tea—wasn’t that rude to the British government? Alice Paul trespassed and chained herself up—how could one be so disrespectful of the president and the home of our democracy? Rosa Parks stubbornly refused to listen to authority—is that not showing large disregard for American forces?

Kaepernick’s movement is patriotism. Influential people are standing up to fight for their rights, for their equality, for their freedom, and they are doing so by using traditional American methods of appalling radicalism.

If one does not agree, what should Kaepernick be doing instead of exercising his right to freedom, his right to democracy, and his right to protest in the way that every oppressed American has in the past?

There is no proper, agreeable, respectful, way to protest because any action that would fit this description, wouldn’t have enough of an impact to even count as a protest.

There is no right way to protest, and there is no type of person who is best suited for protest. Protest is meant to start a conversation, to empower the protester, to make a statement, and Kaepernick’s protest accomplishes these goals.

NFL turns it back, kicks Colin Kaepernick to the curb

The article can also be found on the Miscellany news!

Today, the NFL will induct college football’s brightest players into its fraternity, with the opening round of the 2017 draft. For San Francisco 49er fans, today might be the day they finally get their new quarterback.

But what ran the last guy out of San Francisco? Simply put, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick just took a knee.

It’s the story that the NFL wants the common fan to forget about. While known domestic abusers and players with rap sheets as long as paper towel rolls are consistently given second chances in the league, Kaepernick, the man who was brave enough to do what so many athletes won’t, is out of a job.

Kaepernick was virtually kicked out of the NFL following his national anthem racial injustice protests during the 2015-2016 season. The current blacklisting of Kaepernick has firmly cemented the NFL as the most conservative institution in all of professional sports.

And this conversation, that looked to be finally fading away off of the NFL’s long list of PR issues, has now been given new life. The free agent quarterback was recently named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2017, a strong accolade for an athlete who is unlikely to throw a pass in 2017.

Jim Harbaugh, who coached Kaepernick in San Francisco from 2011 to 2014 during a golden age for the Niners, wrote the article that appeared alongside the Milwaukee native in Time Magazine.

“At times in our nation’s history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust,” Harbaugh said on Kaepernicks’s protest. “Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or-most important-harming our own personal interests.”

Harbaugh was not alone in his not-so-subtle shots at the NFL for not embracing Kaepernick. Appearing on ESPN’s First Take last month, outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman asserted that Kaepernick was treated unfairly during free agency.

“Obviously he’s going to be in a backup role at this point. But you see quarterbacks, there was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year,” Sherman said. “So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before.”

It is true that Kaepernick has not been a particularly good quarterback for the last couple of years.

However, he is still a relatively young player who brought the 49ers to two NFC championships and a Super Bowl appearance. His unemployment status just does not add up.

Additionally, with such a dearth of versatile quarterbacks currently in the league, it is almost unfathomable how no team has given Kaepernick a workout or even a glance.

All this boils down to an unfortunate fact: the NFL’s brand and fan base are too deeply attached to overt displays of patriotism. Kaepernick thus becomes the ultimate poison.

Other pro leagues like the NBA have openly encouraged players to use their position as influential public figures to speak out on issues, especially those of racial inequality.

So here’s a message to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 league owners. Don’t turn your back on your Black players.

Someone take a stand and give Kap a second chance under center. Your team can become a league pioneer for racial justice if you just let him take a knee on your sideline next season.

The article can also be found on the Miscellany news!