by Steph Holton
Whether you’re an avid 49ers fan, a casual NFL follower, or you’re completely oblivious to sports in general, Colin Kaepernick is now likely a familiar name. In protest to police brutality and racial inequality in the U.S., the NFL quarterback stayed seated during the national anthem at a recent pre-season game, and says he plans to continue protesting in this way throughout the season.
Unsurprisingly, backlash in the weeks since has been relentless. Accusations have been that Kaepernick’s actions are disrespectful and even illegal. Another common criticism is that the action ignores the sacrifice of veterans, but #VeteransforKaepernick has cropped up in support of his choice to sit or kneel during the anthem. On the other hand, encouragement has come from the many who say it is the quarterback’s right to exercise his freedoms in this way.
One thing is for certain – Kaepernick has sparked conversation about the nature of patriotism and right of protest. In response to the growing controversy, San Francisco Police Chief Michael Sellers said, “blanket statements disparaging the law enforcement profession are hurtful and do not help bring the country together, [however] police officers are here to protect the rights of every person, even if we disagree with their position.” Meanwhile, soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who also recently took a knee during the anthem as a nod to the San Francisco quarterback, said “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties.”
Is this form of protest a stepping stone to change, or another act that further divides the nation? Colin Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem, while certainly controversial, is his right. Though while the country considers whether his actions are a disrespect to a long standing symbol of unity, the topic Kaepernick originally meant to bring to light has been largely overshadowed.