Sunday, August 28, 2016



Colin Kaepernick has every right not to stand for the National Anthem before NFL games. Some people would say that is the very reason for the existence of the national anthem – to celebrate a country that allows you the right to sit down in protest of it if you so chose.

Kaepenick has so chosen so far in preseason games.  “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 told NFL Media after the San Francisco 49ers game against the Green Bay Packers Friday night. “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.”

He has every right to do so — just like anyone who believes otherwise has every right to be critical of Kaepernick.

You can’t say the 49ers quarterback has the right to express his opinion and then condemn others for expressing their opinion critical of his refusal to stand for the anthem. And, save for putting Colin Kaepernick in jail for his opinion, this isn’t a first amendment issue, and the consequences that he may face, if any, are fair game as well.

If you are a 49ers fan and are offended by his position, you have the right to not buy his jersey. You also have the right to – if you feel strongly enough – abandon your support for the team, which issued a statement that basically, given the fact that the NFL, which has made patriotism much of its marketing business, showed the courage of their lack of conviction.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the team said in its statement. “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 followed suit with a statement that said, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

So how offended are you? As an NFL fan, how important is this to you? Will you stop watching games in protest of Kaepernick’s position? If not, then I guess your sense of outrage only goes so far – as long as it doesn’t interfere with your Monday and Thursday night and Sunday pleasure.

Fellow NFL player Malcolm Jenkins could give both the NFL and Kaepernick a lesson on the meaning of the national anthem. It may be a symbol of oppression to Kaepernick, and it may be a symbol of liberty (and profit for some) for the NFL, but when Jenkins, the Philadelphia Eagles safety, hears the anthem, he thinks of the people who, no matter the politics, sacrificed everything for their country.

“I’m a guy of conviction,” Jenkins said following the Eagles-Colts preseason game Saturday night. “I speak out on the things that I see. So I can’t really look at what he’s doing and tell him he’s wrong.

“We stand there for the National Anthem and sometimes those thoughts go through your mind,’’ he said. “Do I want to actually acknowledge this? Because you might be upset about what’s going on.

“But me personally, I have a lot of friends that served (in the military). My grandfather served. And this is a country that I love. So, me not standing for the National Anthem isn’t really going to get me the results that I want.”

And there you go. It’s not about your or my agenda. It’s about respect and honor for the memory of those who deserve it.

“If you want change and you want things to get better across the country, there’s different ways to go about it,” Jenkins said. “What’s going to get lost is all the stuff that he was trying to point out. I think everybody is going to talk about how him making the money that he does as an NFL player and basically kind of shaming the flag or whatever, shaming the country, is unpatriotic. You talk about troops and being able to honor that, that’s what’s going to get talked about. It’s not going to be about the lives that have been lost across the country, the injustices that are being done to minorities all across this country, that’s what’s not going to be in the headlines. It’s going to be about him.”

Then again, maybe that was the point. Maybe it was always all about Colin Kaepernick.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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