San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a stand by not standing.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the 49ers’ preseason game with Green Bay Friday night as a statement against racial oppression.
In an exclusive interview with NFL Media Kaepernick explained his actions:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.
In response to Kaepernick’s actions, the 49ers organization issued an official statement recognizing Kaepernick’s right to stand for the anthem:
The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.
The NFL also released a brief statement concerning Kaepernick’s actions:
Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.
Yet despite Kaepernick having the clear right not to stand during the anthem, his actions have met with a furious backlash.
Raw Story reports criticism on Twitter ran from attacks on Kaepernick by questioning his patriotism in light of the millions he earns as an NFL star, to extensive use of the “N-word” from racists who are a source of many of the problems African Americans face in the U.S.
Kaepernick is aware of the risk he is taking by inviting backlash from angry conservatives, noting:
This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.
By refusing to stand for the national anthem, Kaepernick is protesting what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and other minorities in the United States. More important, he is exercising his right as an American citizen.
Bottom line: By taking a stand and not standing for the national anthem, Kaepernick is exercising his right as an American citizen to protest injustice. As such, his actions are, by definition, patriotic, for they are a celebration of what it means to be an American.