Opinion

Colin Kaepernick’s gesture ignites race conversation

Colin Kaepernick’s actions politicized the Star-Spangled Banner and elicited harsh responses.

Having grown up in San Francisco, I have been a 49er fan my entire life. This was a hopeless fandom for decades, until the star who is Colin Kaepernick burst onto the field and into the hearts of 49er fans everywhere. However, during his short career, Kaepernick has traveled a road of highs and lows. In 2013, he was pulled off the bench only to lead his team to a Super Bowl that same season. A national sensation for his dynamic playing style and skill, Kaepernick continued to start for San Francisco until last season, where his talent began to fizzle and he lost his starting position midseason.

Fast forward to today, Kaepernick is fighting for a spot on the team that he brought to football’s most important game just three years ago and is sparking fireworks of controversy on and off the field. At the San Francisco versus Green Bay preseason game, Kaepernick infamously sat for the national anthem, angering people across the country. Fans burned his jersey and the media slandered him, calling him un-American and demanding the 49ers remove him from their roster as punishment. 

Although it is blatantly disrespectful to refuse to stand during the anthem, does Kaepernick truly deserve the flak that he is getting? When hit with the massive backlash, Kaepernick stated that he chose to sit for the anthem to protest recent incidents regarding police brutality and racial inequality saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

It is undeniable that police brutality is a current issue Americans are facing, especially African Americans or other people of color. According to a recent census analysis conducted by the Chicago Tribune, African-Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. While Americans express their outrage and frustration toward this disparity after a police shooting goes viral, these events are unfortunately forgotten about faster than they should be, and people’s determination to change the system goes away with it. However, Kaepernick’s protest is keeping the awareness on the subject.

The utter hatred and disgust that Kaepernick has gotten in response to his choice to sit during the anthem is overwhelming. Although I do not condone his choice, I understand that he is fighting for a valiant cause and is not making a choice out of ignorant rebellion. He is using his status and platform to help the lives of people across the country. Free speech is one of the core pillars our country is built on; our troops fight for our ability as Americans to say what we believe without fear of being persecuted for our beliefs. Kaepernick’s protest is not hurting anyone, so why do we care so much what he chooses to think?

Now that the dust is beginning to settle regarding Kaepernick’s anthem antics, he is gaining some support. 49ers teammate Eric Reid knelt alongside Kaepernick during the anthem at the San Francisco vs Chargers preseason game, with other athletes such as United States Women’s National Team soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who took a knee at her most recent game in Chicago. While Kaepernick’s first sitting anthem was ill-received, now it is inspiring other people to spread awareness and potentially change the conversation when it comes to police brutality in this country.

While I personally would never sit, kneel or even choose to keep my hand away from my heart during a national anthem, I cannot judge people who choose to make a different decision than me. While some people may consider Kaepernick’s choice to kneel disrespectful, we must remember that everyone has the right to share their views in this country, even if they are counter to what our country believes as a whole. What some people consider to be anti-American, others consider to be the rebellious spirit that brought our country to the place it is today.

Samantha Wilcox is a sophomore majoring in journalism and communication arts. Do you think that Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem was justified, or an unpatriotic act? Please send questions, comments and concerns to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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