Although the 2016 NFL season has only just begun, it is already wrought with controversy. The root of the polemic start to the season is San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and his pointed pre-game actions.
Kaepernick began his silent protest against systematic racism and police brutality directed towards members of black communities even before the 2016 season kick-off. Choosing to kneel during the national anthem at the start of each preseason game, the California quarterback grabbed the nation’s attention. Since Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during America’s most patriotic hymn, numerable players have followed suit. Some choose to kneel or sit, while others raise their fist in order to demonstrate their collective support for Kaepernick and his message.
Despite his good intentions, Kaepernick’s message has been met with much resistance and hostility. Many Americans take great pride in the national anthem and the values that manifest themselves in each verse. By refusing to rise, Kaepernick has offended those Americans who hold the hymn in the highest regard. Those Americans, however, are too focused on his blasphemous act to understand the message Kaepernick is trying to project.
Frustration from Kaepernick and his followers’ actions has reached figures in high places. According to Euan McKirdy of CNN, Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, claimed that, “The NFL’s failure to address this growing issue is a gross disrespect of American values.” He continued, “The NFL's true colors are emerging as a progressive, left-leaning organization that is attempting to appear fair, neutral and accommodating when, in actuality, the league is enabling activists, individuals and groups that disrespect the U.S.A."
Despite the negative implications of Kaepernick’s protest, it is important that Americans remain true to each and every value that we, as a nation, hold in such high regard. At the center of these values is the right of every American to freedom of expression, one we must not take away from Kaepernick.
Many Americans take pride in the accepting and diverse nature of their homeland. However, it seems as though, in contemporary instances of strife and animosity, some Americans are not abiding by the rights of the Constitution. It is Kaepernick’s constitutional right to express his opinion on the police brutality that has black men, women, and children fearful in their own communities. We must accept this and allow Kaepernick along with his teammates, friends, and competitors to proceed in challenging the ethicality of police brutality and racism.
Though there are more practical and effective ways to oppose the bigotry and barbarity embedded within American society, Kaepernick has come forth with an entirely fair method for his protest. In an interview with NFL reporter, Steve Wyche, Kaepernick said, “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.” When racial disparity thickens, it is important that we do not stand idly by. We should support the oppressed even if the approach is not our own.