By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan)
Has anyone considered that we have missed Colin Kaepernick’s message? Before you profess that I am “un-American”, “anti-police”, or “a traitor”, I am going to enact empathy and my first amendment right: the right of free speech. More than five days after the photo of him sitting during the national anthem surfaced on the Internet, people are still passionately debating about it. The NFL does not have a policy that mandates their players stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”: “In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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. -Kaepernick, as quoted by USA Today
At this point, my opinion of Kaepernick was solidified: he selfish, anti-American, and attention-seeking. My main issue with his decision to sit during the national anthem was that it, in essence, rubbed inaction in the faces of those who fight and have fought for us to be free. What is he actually going to do to help to solve the issue of oppression in the United States?
Then, I saw a hashtag that started trending on Twitter late last night: #VeteransForKaepernick. While scrolling through the thousands of posts this morning, I looked at what people who serve our country (men, women, black, white, etc.) were saying. Some of those tweets are embedded below:
— Nicole (@dcmbrdiva) August 31, 2016
— Baltic Avenue (@Baltic_Avenue) August 31, 2016
— Kristen Meghan (@KristenMeghan) August 31, 2016
— Blake J. Stanfill (@ShimmiHendrix) August 31, 2016
— Black Ryan Lochte (@BlakeInmerica) August 30, 2016
— |_ë$líê (@LariskaPargitay) August 30, 2016
Surely there are dissenters, but the overwhelming majority of veterans on Twitter AGREE with the Kaepernick’s intention. How could this be?
Furthermore, Kaepernick’s act of civil disobedience in 2016 is the same message baseball legend Jackie Robinson preached in his 1972 autobiography I Never Had it Made. Robinson wrote: “. . . but as I write these words now I cannot stand and sing the National Anthem. I have learned that I remain a black in a white world…I had to fight hard against loneliness, abuse and the knowledge that any mistake I made would be magnified because I was the only black man out there. Many people resented my impatience and honesty, but I never cared about acceptance as much as I cared about respect” (Robinson, 1972). Does anyone hate Jackie Robinson? He is considered a hero in baseball and in the civil rights movement.
This morning, while eating a bowl of Cheerios, I began to think. If the majority of veterans who fight for this country’s freedom and for its citizens’ inalienable rights agree with Kaepernick, who am I to disagree?
I remembered another Internet sensation. Who, of my readers, has participated in the social media “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease: ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)? I am willing to bet that a lot of you have. Other than videotaping yourself dumping in an ice bath over your head and posting it to social media, did you pursue avenues to actively volunteer your time to the organization? I am willing to conjecture that only a limited number of you have. However, simply by perpetuating the conversation, the ice bucket challenge raised $115 million dollars for ALS research.
True, Kaepernick could have made this statement in a “better” way, but to me, his intention is simple: to raise awareness for a cause he, and millions of United States citizens, believe is an epidemic. In this, he succeeded.
he has the right to choose not to stand. just as you have the right to disagree with his stance. round and round we go.
— Feeno (@ArianFoster) August 27, 2016
I tackled this topic, while streaming live with 1.1K viewers on my Periscope account (@CoachMcCartan), on my weekly sports talk radio show 60 Minute Overtime. A link to download today’s show