Arena: America's Villain Colin Kaepernick
When you think about 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, nothing specific comes to mind. The guy is mediocre; there are no headline worthy games or accolades to his name. There is no famous play that people recall at the sight of his jersey. As a backup QB, he's simply average, and in fact, he has been declining over the years. Recording a career-low passer rating of 78.5 last year, Kapernick is on a downwards slope at the age of 28. He had nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns and his passing yards has been cut in more than half from the previous year, with a drastic plunge from 3,359 yards to just 1,615.
So how does one become a national headline in the midst of a steep downfall? Simple: you mix politics and sports. A free invitation for a media frenzy, Kaepernick decided to sit during the national anthem in a preseason game to protest the recent string of murders by police. Kapernick is of mixed ethnicity, with a White mother and African American father. He expressed the motivation behind his strong sentiment, while the public went into absolute chaos over the controversial stance.
"I'm going to continue to sit. I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed," Kaepernick said last weekend. "To me, this is something that has to change and when there is significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it's supposed to, I'll stand." While people generally supported his desire to protest inequality, most felt that his approach was demeaning. Branded as un-American, Kaepernick has been the center of criticism. The whole country had a lot to say about it and people did not hold back, including his own family. Kaepernick grew up with his adoptive parents, but his biological mother had a message for him.
Some responses were rather blunt, "pathetic" as tennis player John Isner calls it. After his first tennis match at the U.S. Open, he told reporters that the move was not honorable. "I thought it was pathetic of him," Isner said. "The cause he was going for, fine by me, but don't do it in that fashion. He could have found some other ways to present his voice there." Many players have expressed strong disdain, while others say that he is within his right to protest as he sees fit. Our potential future president Donald Trump suggested that perhaps he find a better country to live in. But if we block out all of the white noise, Kaerpernick's actions cannot be met with such strong hatred. If we are being practical, is there any true punishment for a legal action? The NFL has issued a tweet saying that while they encourage players to stand for the national anthem, it is not required. Aside from the fact that he is not obligated in his professional environment, he is not forced to by U.S. standards either. Some may say that it is a bit hypocritical to protest a country that has afforded him so many freedoms, such as the right to protest. Or what about the fact that it has granted him a career with a hearty $19,000,000 salary? These thoughts are all to justify our negativity towards his actions. One thing that we can all agree on is that the one thing Americans value most is their rights; the land of the free. Although there are probably better ways to support the cause, the very idea that his actions make him "un-American" or that he hates the military is another kind of hypocrisy. Why do people in the military risk their lives everyday for its citizens? They do it to protect these rights...the right to protest, to be unconventional, and to express individual thoughts in the face of ridicule. If people still have a difficult time believing that Kaepernick does support the military's ambitions, maybe they will trust the voice of a veteran himself. In an open letter, U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith claimed his support for the QB's stance.
“I wanted to put something out there in the world … to say that ‘There are veterans who not only agree with Colin Kaepernick’s right to do that, but also agree with the substance of the action,’ ” Smith said. “And are willing to stand up and say Black Lives Matter and this is an important issue that we need to address in our country."
Whether we agree with his bold protest or not, hiding behind the fact that it disrespects the military and veterans is not justified. If we start to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution to support, we are diminishing its meaning as a whole. We live in a country where the KKK can still plaster anti-black slogans on websites and people can write college papers on why the Holocaust never happened. But we also live in one of the few countries where your voice is valued and you can challenge authority without fear for your life. Jackie Robinson is a celebrated figure and he expressed the same sentiment, stating that he could not stand up for a flag that did not present equality for its citizens. Muhammad Ali protested the war and the military, igniting worldwide controversy. I am not saying that Kaepernick is a hero, but if we, as a people, continue to say that his actions are not right, we just might be giving up everything we believe in.