Column: Colin Kaepernick and his right to sit

Kaepernick is deciding to sit during the national anthem. Can he?

On Aug. 26, Colin Kaepernick decided to not stand up during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers game against the Green Bay Packers. Some have argued that he does not have the right to do so and that it was distasteful and unpatriotic. Others have pointed out that him sitting is completely unrelated to his patriotism and is rather solely based in his outrage toward police killings and brutality. Colin Kaepernick has every right to not stand for the national anthem.

This is not the first time an athlete has refused to stand for the national anthem. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, although an NBA player, did the same thing in 1996, saying, “The flag is a symbol of oppression, of tyranny. This country has a long history of that.” The NBA suspended him but came to an agreement within a day. Under the agreement, Mahmoud would have to stand but could pray silently into his hands. It cost Mahmoud $30,000 for the single game.

Unlike the NBA, the NFL does not require players to stand for the pledge. An NFL spokesman said “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” In other words, Kaepernick has every right to express that he is not going “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”

Colin Kaepernick has been very vocal recently on social media regarding high-profile events involving the killings of of African-American people by the police. This subject on its own is a real issue, and it is interesting to finally see an NFL player make such a statement on the national stage. He is not only acting as a mainstream voice for what is occurring in this nation, but he also announced that he will be donating $1 million to various community organizations. You cannot get mad at a man who is putting some of his money where his mouth is.

In response to his actions, many have called for Kaepernick to apologize to veterans for refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Kaepernick said that he has “great respect for the men and women [who] have fought for this country […] they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.” Veterans were also showing their support for his right to protest via #VeteransForKaepernick on Twitter. Personally, several of my family members served, and at least two of them completely support Kaepernick’s actions. Why? Because Kaepernick is guaranteed this right to protest. Men and women sacrificed time in their lives or died for this country to give people the right to protest, not to blindly agree with established institutions and ideas.

Kaepernick has also spoken out against his critics.

“I’m not anti-American,” Kaepernick said with a smile. “I love America. I love people. [That’s] why I’m doing this. I want to help make America better.”

If he believes he can make America better, more power to him. The individual paints their own portrait. Someone should be judged by what they contribute to society, not by what they are. The U.S. has its faults. We have had our problems. People protesting, like Kaepernick did, encourages discussion and potential dialogue that can lead to progress. You may not completely agree with what Kaepernick is attempting to convey, but you have to give him the respect he deserves as a citizen to protest.

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