© by Gerald So | geraldso.blogspot.com |
Over the weekend, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat through the national anthem, later explaining, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
It's Kaepernick's right to protest. Have fellow Americans mistreated me because of my color and beliefs? Yes. But those few don't overshadow the country's ideal of freedom, something it continually aspires to, and to me, what its flag represents, the opposite of oppression.
Moving toward that ideal, it has taken the country's entire history to achieve the practical freedoms we have. Depending on Kaepernick's ideas of oppression and change, we may never see him stand for the anthem again, but it's more important for the country to pursue ideal freedom than to meet one person's idea of freedom.
(SEPT. 8 UPDATE): Since my original post, two other perspectives have influenced my opinion on anthem protests. John Tortorella, coach of Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey, said if any of his players sat during "The Star Spangled Banner" he would sit them for the game. A world competition is a larger platform than the one Kaepernick is on. One would assume people who choose to play on behalf of the U.S. wouldn't sit out the anthem, but Olympic athletes have protested in the past. Then again, in team sports, the coach decides playing time.
Elsewhere, in solidarity with Kaepernick, U.S. Women's Soccer star Megan Rapinoe recently knelt during the anthem before a Sattle Reign match. To prevent a second protest, last night's Reign opponent, the Washington Spirit played the anthem before the teams took the field. The Spirit's reasoning was they didn't want Rapinoe's protest to draw attention away from "an important night for our franchise."
I have two thoughts: First, playing the anthem before teams take the field shows country is more important than individual. Anyone who's been part of a team or a group should be able to empathize, having given of themselves for the collective good.
Second, as Tortorella and others have said, there are ways to show stances in America besides sitting or kneeling out the anthem. The conviction of those who protest should run deeper than this particular sign of protest.