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The right not to stand?

Courtesy of elz473 via Flickr

Listen, Kaepernick: Defiance doesn’t solve the problem
by Parker Tilley
Whether you’re a sports junkie or you’ve never watched ESPN, I’m sure at some point in your media consumption over the past week you spotted the story about Colin Kaepernick. In case you haven’t heard, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback sparked outrage and controversy throughout the United States when he refused to stand up during a pre-game playing of the national anthem.
Following the game, Kaepernick told the media that he was not “going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” While the NFL and 49ers coach Chip Kelly have both said that they cannot force Kaepernick to stand and believe he has the right to remain seated, people across the country have ensued with many emotions over the issue.
Kaepernick isn’t the first professional athlete to stand up for a cause by using his position of popularity. NBA players Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have pulled similar stunts in the past.
I think that his blatant disregard for patriotism and freedom isn’t right, and his actions are sending other messages besides the one he wants to convey.
While he may be upset about what is going on across the country right now regarding race relations, refusing to respect the country as a whole isn’t the proper way to go about it. As it is often said, “if you want to complain about something, you better come prepared with a solution to the problem.” Kaepernick thinks he is standing up for a cause, when in all actuality, he isn’t putting forth any support or resources in order to be a part of the solution.
A cartoon circulating on social media portrays the situation in another light. Colin Kaepernick’s six year NFL contract is valued at $114 million (it’s quite ridiculous, however I digress). In the cartoon, it quotes the football player saying, “To protest racial inequality, I refuse to stand for the national anthem.” Then the reporter asks, “So to protest income inequality, will you refuse to take your paycheck?” We know the answer to that: of course not!
If Kaepernick truly wants to be a part of the solution, then he would take on an advocacy role. He would donate some of his income to a civil rights based organization.
He would take pride in his country while contributing to the national dialogue over this hideous issue. He would take some time off the field and mentor youth. He would propose solutions that work towards equality for all while avoiding such egregious disrespect for the country that provides him the freedom to be on the field.
In general, while I’m concerned about his lack of respect for the national anthem, I’m most bothered by his lack of support to find a solution for the issues to which he is raising awareness.
My comparative politics class allows me to view this from yet another lens. Our textbook defines patriotism as “pride in one’s state,” and emphasizes that “people are patriotic when they have pride in their political system and seek to defend and promote it.” The national anthem is an emblem of pride that draws upon the freedoms we have been given because of the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made.
Kaepernick obviously doesn’t realize that without those sacrifices the national anthem represents, he would not be where he is right now. He is doing this because he has the freedom to do so. If he cannot see that his actions degrade and disrespect the democracy that allows him to speak out in the manner he chooses, then he has missed the whole point.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Trust me, this is silence even though Kaepernick thinks he is standing for something. There is silence as it relates to his solutions for the issue, and all I see is a plan to promote controversy.
Dr. King was a proud American citizen who fought for what he believed in and will forever be remembered as a force to be reckoned with in light of equality for all. Colin Kaepernick’s self-publicity stunt may be seen as heroic or moving in the eyes of a select few, but in the eyes of most Americans, his actions are unpatriotic and distract us from the real reason he even wanted to protest in the first place.
Disagreement on an issue is one thing— it’s what enriches and propels the democracy we live in. Disrespect is another issue. Our country may have quite a few issues to pick through, however undermining the principles we stand for can’t be added to the list. In the end, it’s likely that people won’t be able to hear Kaepernick’s cause through the noise he has created in the process.

Why blind patriotism is not patriotism
by Jack O’Reilly
Before we get started, I need you, reader, to do me a quick favor. Picture in your head the ideal American citizen. What does he or she look like? Tall or short? Black or white? What kind of church does he or she go to, if they go to one at all? Some of you may be thinking, “There is no ideal American, I don’t know what to picture.” That’s fine, you’re just a bit ahead of me. Try thinking of Superman. He’s a safe choice. If an artist rendered all of our imaginary, “ideal Americans” onto one big canvas, I’m sure we’d never find two that were exactly alike (except for a bunch of Supermen). Americans aren’t the same, and it’s our differences, whether they are in skin color, religion, gender, or anything else, that have made and continue to make America great.
So how come a lot of Americans demand other Americans to “worship” America in a certain and absolute way? Why do school children face ridicule if they don’t want to say the national anthem every morning? Why does waving a flag more vigorously than other people make you more American?
Why can’t the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers sit down during the national anthem if he chooses to? I believe that many Americans have lost sight of what it means to be an American patriot, and it is this blindness, brought to light by their vitriolic scorn of Colin Kapernick, that has made being an American “patriot” anything but patriotic.
Before we delve into the complexities and contradictions that surround the nation’s anger at Colin Kaepernick, let’s dispel the notion that anything that he’s done is offensive or disrespectful towards members and veterans of the American military. Americans enlist in the military for a multitude of reasons, but there are always two reasons that come to mind before any other. Ask any veteran you know why they enlisted, and before they say whatever reasons personally applied to them, they’ll always say, “to protect your rights and your freedom.”
That’s what I said when I enlisted, and it’s what I said when I volunteered to spend 6 months in the Middle East. Sure, I wanted free college and an adventure, but I wanted to protect your rights and your freedoms. Colin Kaepernick is not disrespecting any veteran; he’s only proving that their sacrifices were worthwhile.
No veteran thought, “I’m going to go to Afghanistan and fight so that people HAVE to stand for the national anthem or HAVE to wear red white and blue.” Forcing him to stand would be a slap in the face to those that fought and died for his rights. Who the hell are you to deny him his God given, and American defended, freedom?
With that said, I turn to the angry nationalism that has brought on this controversy. Blind patriotism is not patriotism, it is dangerous, it is wrong, and it is a threat to all that America stands for. Short of fighting and dying for your country, there is nothing more patriotic than peacefully protesting.. A true American patriot is never satisfied. He or she knows that America is a great and incredible nation, and it is because he knows its greatness that he is compelled, to identify and swiftly rectify the wrongs or evils that seek to undermine his nations greatness. A man that blinds himself to injustices and hardships put upon his fellow countrymen is not a patriot, he is selfish, cowardly, and thoroughly un-American.
If all Americans were anywhere near as patriotic as Colin Kaepernick, his refusal to stand would be a serious issue not because he “disrespected” the flag, but because there is so much injustice and struggle for Americans. The anger and disgust hurled upon him ought to be channeled into solving America’s problems, and into making America greater.
No citizen who claims that they’re proud to be an American should ever say, “If Kaepernick doesn’t like it here, maybe he should go somewhere else.” Instead they should say, “Does Kaepernick have a valid point? If so, how can we help?”
That’s why when I close my eyes and think of the ideal American, I think of Colin Kaepernick, even though he can’t handle the pressure from a blitz up the middle, and even though he constantly wants to abandon the structure of the play call, I think he’s got more courage and patriotism than I ever did, even when I was an overeager SPC-4 in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has put his career, fame, and social standing on the line for a cause he believes in, and I wish that all Americans would be that brave.

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