Colin Kaepernick Stirs A Debate Rife With Passion And Utter Hypocrisy

August 26, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi
August 26, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi /

Colin Kaepernick has been a lightning rod for controversy the past couple of seasons – and his decision to sit for the national anthem recently, certainly hasn’t taken the heat off of him.

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Even when he’s not stinking it up on the field, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sure does know how to make a splash, doesn’t he? There is an age old saying about there being no such thing as “bad publicity.” However, in light of the backlash Kaepernick is facing for failing to get on his feet and dance when it was expected of him, maybe that old saying isn’t exactly true. Of course, Kaepernick knew what he was putting his foot into, and to his credit, he has not shied away from it. Kudos to him for that.

On the subject of Kaepernick and “sit-gate” or whatever inane thing you want to call it, let’s be honest here for a minute. The man is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. There is a section of people in this country who decry athletes for not using their platform to effect social change. Yet when Kaepernick or some other athlete does use their platform in an effort to effect social change, a different section of people try to nuke the guy from orbit.
Damned if he does. Damned if he doesn’t.

Obviously, the fact that Kaepernick is choosing to sit during the national anthem has touched off a firestorm of controversy. People all over the country are weighing in on the topic – many of them, in not so flattering terms.

In the wake of Kaepernick’s protest – and his statement after the fact – the Internet has been lit up like a Christmas tree with words of support. And words of condemnation. And predictably – because there is a disgusting underbelly to our society – there has been a wave of vulgar racist rhetoric aimed at Kaepernick.

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And lest we forget the chest-thumping, flag waving, uber-patriots, there has of course, been the typical “if you don’t love it, leave it,” commentary flying around as well.

Look, if you want to have the debate, that’s fine. However, there are a couple of things that you have to accept as fact. The first is that over the course of this nation’s history, people of color have faced discrimination that folks of a fairer persuasion haven’t.

That’s just a fact.

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The second thing that you have to accept is that in this country, waving a flag, beating your chest, firing your guns into the air, or wearing star spangled underwear doesn’t make you any more of a patriot than the guy who quietly exercises his Constitutional right to free speech by choosing to sit out when the national anthem is played.

The First Amendment to our Constitution is very clear that we have the right to free speech in this country. That protected speech includes criticizing the government, burning the American flag and yes, remaining seated when the national anthem is played.

It may not be the way you or I would protest, but like it or not, it is a valid form of protest and free speech. And exercising that Constitutionally guaranteed right does not make somebody anti-American any more than that star spangled Speedo makes somebody more American than the next guy.

Our nation was founded upon protest. It’s in our blood. It’s why the Supreme Court has continually upheld the right of the nation’s citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights.

But let’s not get this all twisted. It’s not the form of protest that people are taking issue with. After all, they hypocrisy of that stance would be overwhelming.

Hypocrisy, you say? Why yes, hypocrisy. And lots of it.

Many among the anti-Kaepernick crowd are railing against the disrespect he is showing to our nation, to the troops, to his sixth grade English teacher. Basically, in the minds of some, Kaepernick sitting out the national anthem disrespected anybody and everybody he’s ever known. And worst of all, it disrespects the country.

Colin Kaepernick
Aug 4, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) trains at SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

And if that’s their stance, why then, is there no howling and screaming about people talking on their cellphones? Snapping pictures? Carrying on their conversations during the national anthem? Why then, is there no national outrage over the fact that some players wear their caps during the national anthem?

All of those things are disrespectful to the flag, to the troops, and to this country as well. In fact, wearing a cap during the national anthem was thought of as such an egregious display of disrespect that there is a federal law prohibiting it.
Federal law? Why yes, in fact there is. If you don’t believe me, I would encourage you to Google United States Code Title 36, Chapter 10. If that’s too much trouble though, let me help you out.

"“When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.”"

And yet, just go back to the previous Super Bowl. During the singing of the national anthem, you can see players from both teams – as well as thousands in the crowd – wearing their hats. Among other “disrespectful” behaviors.

In fact, Title 36, Chapter Ten is pretty clear on how not to display the flag and what’s considered “disrespectful” to this country. Let me give you a little taste of what’s considered “disrespectful” to the flag and to the nation.

"“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.”"

It also outlines a whole host of other things that are considered disrespectful – and yet, things that many people today seem to think show just how patriotic they are.

And this is exactly where the hypocrisy comes into play. Many uber-patriots today, think that wearing their star spangled Speedos shows how down with America they are. And yet, they also believe that a man, quietly exercising his Constitutionally guaranteed rights is an affront to this country and a sign of disrespect.

Of course, there are many who think that because Kaepernick is making millions playing football, was raised by white parents, and enjoys his celebrity, that he should just check his privilege, sit down, and shut up. There are a million comments floating around out there which basically say Kaepernick should “shut up and play football.”

Yeah, he makes millions playing a game. And yeah, maybe he grew up with certain advantages others didn’t. But does that mean he can’t be socially conscious? Does that mean that he can’t look at some of the terrible things happening in this country and have his own opinion? Does that mean he can’t see the struggle some people are enduring and try to make a difference with the platform he has?

Maybe because of his wealth and celebrity, Kaepernick doesn’t have to worry about getting shot if he gets pulled over, or if he’s just walking down the street. But does that mean he shouldn’t take a stand against what he perceives to be injustice within this nation? Does that mean he shouldn’t speak up for those who have no voice?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, maybe the problem isn’t the fact that Kaepernick decided to speak out.

Let’s be straight about this whole fiasco. The people who have a problem with what Kaepernick did, by and large, have a problem with his message. They have a problem with him shining a big, bright light on the fact that we still have a problem with race relations in this country. It’s as if some folks think that if we ignore it, it will go away.

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  • The problem though, is that racial intolerance isn’t one of those things that will ever just go away. It sits and festers. It rots this country from the inside out. And though things have gotten better in this country, recent events prove that we still have a long, long way to go.

    If we ever want things in this country to change, we the people, must rise up to change them. Things like racism aren’t going to fix themselves. It’s a plague that must be eradicated from the face of the nation. And the only way to do that is to A) acknowledge that the problem still exists, and B) work together to find the solutions.

    But before that happens, we have to be able to have a blunt, truthful, and brutally honest conversation about it. And the only way to make that happen, is to shine that spotlight in the darkened corners some folks don’t want to acknowledge exist. Because it makes them uncomfortable. Or angry. Or a million other things.

    Philosopher and Irish statesman Edmund Burke once famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    Think what you want about Kaepernick’s wealth, privilege, and upbringing. But you can’t say that he isn’t trying to stand up for what’s right. You can’t say he’s not trying to make this world a better place. You can’t say that he’s not fighting for people who have no voice. You can’t say he’s doing “nothing.”

    And once upon a time in America, those things were applauded. People who spoke up for the downtrodden, who fought for the “little guy” were considered heroes – and not any of the millions of hateful things that have been thrown at Kaepernick.

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    Waving a flag and declaring that you’re as American as apple pie doesn’t make you a patriot in and of itself. It doesn’t make you a “better” American than the next guy. Just as Kaepernick, exercising his Constitutionally protected right to protest by sitting down for his beliefs, doesn’t make him a “worse” American than any of the troglodytes throwing hate his way.

    He’s a man with an opinion and strong convictions – opinions and convictions he’s unafraid to act on. And once upon a time in America, that was something to be admired. Whatever happened to those days?