When Colin Kaepernick chose to sit for the National Anthem, he knew it was going to start a controversy. By abstaining from the traditional stance during the song, he sought to draw attention to his understanding that black individuals are discriminated against in our country.
“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 NFL Media in an interview directly following the game. “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.”
Since his decision to sit out during our nation’s song before the 49ers‘ preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium, there has been a lot of conversation in our nation about civil rights, respect, and nationalism. And while I acknowledge that equality within our nation is important, I do not think that Colin Kaepernick should have stayed seated during our country’s anthem.
The national anthem has been a cherished part of American history all the way since 1814, when Francis Scott Key saw an American flag still standing through a spyglass after a fierce battle with the British. He was so inspired by this symbol of freedom that he wrote down the words to what later became known as “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The song was then actually used as an anthem for Union troops as they fought to end slavery. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order that made it the national anthem of the United States for all military ceremonies. Though the song’s name has changed from “Defence of Fort M’Henry” to a bit of a catchier title, two hundred years later, we still sing and honor this song as a testament to the freedom that America has always stood for.
When we stand for the national anthem, we are not saying that everything in our country is perfect. We are not saying that there aren’t vital parts of our system that must be fixed or that there aren’t people on the periphery that need to do a better job of protecting.
Talking about injustice in our country, including racial injustice, is important.
However, that being said, not showing respect to our country’s anthem is not the right way to address these issues.
Our national anthem was created to celebrate the resilience of America and our ability to stand as a nation even when everything is crashing down around us.
Our national anthem was the rallying cry as we fought to put an end to the atrocities of slavery forever.
Our national anthem is the song we sing at military ceremonies to honor those who willingly give up their lives to protect our freedom.
When we stand to honor our flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner, we are paying tribute to those who founded this great nation. We are respecting those who fought and those who are currently fighting to preserve our right to protest what we see as unjust. We stand to regard the men and women of all races and classes who fight to preserve our nation’s ideals and create a place where we can share our opinions and beliefs.
So when I see Colin Kaepernick sitting during our national anthem, I have a problem with it. I have no doubt that his beliefs and his cause are legitimate and should be discussed. But I do not think that it takes disrespecting our nation and its anthem to do so.