TAR HEEL VIEW: Kaepernick is exercising his American right

Colin Kaepernick is used to being a target on the football field as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. In the last week, Kaepernick has also become a target off the field as well.

Kaepernick drew national attention for sitting on the bench during the playing of the national anthem before Thursday’s San Francisco-Green Bay preseason game. The only thing is that it wasn’t the first time Kaepernick was on the bench for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The former face of the 49ers also sat during the anthem in the team’s other two preseason contests.

Members of the media took notice this time because it was Kaepernick’s first time on the field during the preseason. Kaepernick stood out as his teammates were standing during the anthem and he was the lone figure sitting between two water coolers on the bench.

Kaepernick might have preferred seeing an all-out blitz from an opposing team than the firestorm he has been forced to endure since the national media grabbed a hold of this story. There are a few times when something transcends sports and this is one of them.

Facing the scrutiny of the media, Kaepernick stood in front of all the reporters and cameras prepared for all the questions that were going to be fired at him. He remained steadfast in his actions and told the world why he elected to sit while his teammates, opponents, officials and fans stood as one.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick focused much of his anger towards the recent wave of police officer-involved shootings.

“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality,” said Kaepernick. “There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”

Kaepernick also had this to say about the police: “You can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

He also criticized both of the major party presidential candidates.

“I mean, you have Hillary [Clinton] who’s called black teens or black kids ‘super-predators,’” Kaepernick said. “You have Donald Trump who’s openly racist. I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison. So what is this country really standing for?”

Kaepernick isn’t the first professional athlete to take a stand during the national anthem and bring attention to their cause. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith bowed their heads and raised their fists in a black power protest.

Former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, like Kaepernick, refused to stand during the national anthem saying the flag was “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny” and doing so was recognizing “nationalistic ritualism.” The NBA suspended him, but it was for one day as league officials and Abdul-Rauf came to an agreement, allowing him to stand and pray during the anthem.

The NFL won’t go as far to suspend Kaepernick because NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

This is the conundrum facing people who want to condemn Kaepernick. They say his actions are a slap in the face of every soldier who has fought defending this country and the rights that come with it. Among the rights that come with being an American is the freedom of speech. So when Kaepernick elects to sit for the anthem, he is expressing his choice.

It may not be the popular or correct decision, but it is one we all have to right to make.

The Sanford Herald

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