San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not been standing for the national anthem during preseason games. As he has put it, “I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Bill Littlefield has been listening as players and others have responded to Kaepernick’s decision.
If you believe that patriotism is a matter of standing up for the national anthem and saluting the flag, then Colin Kaepernick is unpatriotic.
If you believe that patriotism translates not to love of country, right or wrong, but to loving a country enough to want to encourage a greater appreciation for justice in that country, then Colin Kaepernick is a patriot.
"By deciding not to stand when the national anthem is played, and by patiently telling everybody why he has made that choice, Colin Kaepernick has provided us with an opportunity to decide who we are.”
If you believe that the job of a pro athlete should extend only to entertaining the people who pay his salary, and that a player’s primary responsibility should be to avoid anything that might distract his teammates from the business of winning games, then Colin Kaepernick should keep his political views to himself.
If you believe that any citizen, regardless of what he or she does for a living, has the right to protest racism, social inequality, and such specific concerns as the violent treatment of minority citizens by law enforcement officers, then Colin Kaepernick is a responsible citizen.
Perhaps you regard people who make a lot of money playing a game as foolish if they fail to acknowledge how fortunate they are. Perhaps you feel they should keep their mouths shut and enjoy the ride. If so, Colin Kaepernick is a fool.
If you believe that a fellow who has plenty of money has as much right as somebody less fortunate to speak out when he sees that the culture that has rewarded him has simultaneously tolerated the oppression of somebody else, then Colin Kaepernick’s inclination to look beyond his own circumstances is evidence of not only wisdom, but of exceptional selflessness.
There has been a great deal of discussion, some of it silly, some of it hateful, about what Colin Kaepernick is. In a way, perhaps that discussion is misguided. By deciding not to stand when the national anthem is played, and by patiently telling everybody why he has made that choice, Colin Kaepernick has provided us with an opportunity to decide who we are.