Eastern Student Punts Kaepernick Controversy

     As early as  the first Olympic Games, sports have been associated with patriotism. This is especially true in the United States with football. Football players are not just athletes—they are people who make possible an integral part of the American identity.

     This is why 49ers player and former Super Bowl starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s choice not to participate in the national anthem on Aug. 26 before the 49ers preseason game against Green Bay has so appalled the country. But Kaepernick finds our country’s treatment of minorities, specifically African Americans, appalling. After his silent statement, NFL media reporter Steve Wyche reported that Kaepernick said that America’s oppression of black people was “bigger than football.”

     It seems, though, that Americans don’t see this as a football issue, but rather an issue of patriotism, a disrespect for a country we hold dear, a country that our football players are representing. Reporter Paul Domowitch brought attention to the response of Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins: that Jenkins is equally concerned about the state of our nation’s treatment of African Americans and other minorities, but he would never sit through the anthem. Jenkins claims that Kaepernick’s actions miss the point and actually serve to distract from the issue instead of inspiring a conversation about minorities and civil rights. While Jenkins doesn’t condemn Kaepernick’s choice, he claims that he couldn’t follow suit because of his great love and respect for our country and military.

     However, for Jenkins to say that what stops him from taking a stand (or sitting, more accurately) with Kaepernick is patriotism is just proving his own critique correct: the discussion will be about patriotism and respect for the military instead of serious civil rights matters that Jenkins claims to support. His response does a great job of pandering to the audience, as he both supports minorities and the majority that is concerned with symbolic patriotism.

     Kaepernick, on the other hand, has done a brave thing by not trying to walk the line of public opinion. He is doing what he thinks is right, despite the potential harm to his career and the definite harm to his general popularity. In fact, he is exercising two of America’s foundational, unalienable rights: that we each have the right to speak out against the actions of our country and that all men are created equal. For this reason, I think Kaepernick is a real patriot.

     I stand for the national anthem, not because I’m not grossly concerned with many things America is currently doing, but because I’m proud to live in a country where Kaepernick, and each and every one of us, has the right to dissent. What we need to discuss is why our citizens aren’t proud to be such, instead of punishing them for refusing to blindly follow the status quo.

     Sources: nfl.com, philly.com

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