Kaepernick exercising his rights, but in the wrong way

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In recent weeks, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand during the pregame playing of the national anthem before 49ers preseason games. When interviewed about the situation, Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He went on to say, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

As a former high school athlete, I remember standing before my games with my hands behind my back, listening to the national anthem. It’s easy to recall the thought that I was so incredibly lucky to go on out on the field and play the sports I loved. There was no doubt in my mind who I had to thank for that, the people who defend our country along with the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me, and for all of us. That is what the national anthem meant to me. I will defend that thought for as long as there are people defending our country and giving their lives so that I can do what I love. With that, it also means that Kaepernick can exercise his constitutional right to stay seated before he goes out and does what he loves.

Kaepernick is standing up for what he truly believes in. This is a great use of our constitutional right to free speech and is exactly what that document was conceived for. The manner in which he is exercising this right, however, is unacceptable in my eyes. He is right, equality should not be something to be shoved away. But the way he disrespects the brave men and women of our military who have fought for our country is wrong, period. There are more efficient and positive ways to protest these claims of police brutality and poor treatment of minorities. Staying seated has brought nothing to him and his cause but negative attention and ridicule. Quite frankly, in the eyes of an avid football fan, it makes him look very desperate for attention after becoming nearly irrelevant in his last few seasons for the 49ers.

The national anthem is a time to sit back and recognize just how lucky we as American citizens are. Kaepernick is playing at the highest level of professional football and has been exposed to many positive things in his life thanks to the freedoms that were defended for him and every other American. As a black man, he is more successful than most people in our country, no matter the race. To sit back and metaphorically spit in the face of people who are not the cause of his unhappiness is truly ignorant. What is being solved by this? Absolutely nothing positive. If anything, his actions have regressed some of the progress made with racial issues in our country by making an extremely sensitive and debatable subject more of an issue.

In the past week I have seen Kaepernick’s actions further divide not only the 49ers’ locker room, but our country as a whole. People are taking sides on an issue rather than coming together to end these issues. It is undoubtedly more selfish to disregard the progress being made while disrespecting our military by sitting, than trying to use his increasingly irrelevant fame in the NFL to raise awareness for an issue that requires solidarity as a people.

If Kaepernick will not stand for the people that have protected him and stand for a flag that has given him the ability to play a sport for a living, then what will he stand for? The issue on race is far beyond Kaepernick and his ability to change things. Steps need to be taken as an entire people for his idea of racial equality to be reached. The only product of his actions in the last two weeks have been further division among American citizens, the last thing our nation needs.