Many Americans are vigorously detesting or defending quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem at his San Francisco 49ers National Football League games.
Amid all this furor, focus on a crucial facts that amount to three victories — no matter someone’s personal view of Kaepernick’s actions.
▪ His decision has sparked positive responses that could help improve the lives of needy Americans.
One example from Thursday: The 49ers announced they would donate $1 million to a pair of San Francisco area groups that deal with social inequality issues.
Previously, Kaepernick had said he would contribute $1 million of his current year’s salary to charitable organizations that also deal with social matters.
▪ Kaepernick’s stance has led to plenty of informative and emotionally charged writing about patriotism and the anthem. The media coverage has provided a teachable last two weeks for many Americans.
As President Barack Obama put it this week, “I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all.”
However, part of what Obama said drew a rebuke from Jim Huffman in The Daily Caller, who wrote, “The president is right to defend free expression.... But he is wrong to say that Kaepernick was ‘exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.’ The Constitution has nothing to do with what an NFL player may and may not do during an NFL game.”
▪ Finally, Kaepernick’s actions have brought attention to this compelling issue without anyone dying.
Too often, patriotism becomes a highly discussed topic only after a local or national tragedy involving one or more deaths.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 15 years ago are perhaps the best reminders of that. The attacks ignited a wave of patriotism at sporting events, in particular. The attacks subsequently imbued a kind of special meaning in the national anthem, waving of the U.S. flag and other actions in support of the country.
At other times, local tragedies — including the loss of firefighters or police officers, or of military personnel — stoke more interest in being patriotic, in honoring those who serve.
However, in Kaepernick’s case, he has managed to make the anthem — and by inclusion, respect for the U.S. flag — a more important topic to understand and read about for millions of Americans.
His views haven’t killed anyone or, frankly, had much of a direct effect on Americans. He’s one guy expressing his opinion on what has become a volatile subject.
Which brings us back to the fact that this whole matter has spurred informative and controversial writing on the subject, partly noteworthy because it’s about a professional sports league that is predominately made up of black players.
One of my cousins — Jon Schwarz, writing for The Intercept — penned a widely circulated piece that’s received predictable negative responses from the pro-anthem crowd: Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery.
An excerpt: “Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.”
On pretty much the other side of the divide, Phil Mushnick wrote in the New York Post, “I believe that the greatest oppressors of black Americans are black Americans. And they’re encouraged to continue by a say-what-you-want-to-hear leadership and messengers, from the president to a frightened media, politicians of every office, and activists, both black and white, empowered by their steady unwillingness to tell clear, present and sustaining truths in service of genuine for-the-better change.”
Finally, a UPI article had it both ways, under a headline that read, “Colin Kaepernick controversy: Why both sides are wrong.”
This controversy is likely to continue to grab the nation’s attention.
Some Seattle Seahawks players on Thursday said the team would do something during their game Sunday. Player Doug Baldwin Jr. tweeted, “To express a desire to bring people together, our team will honor the country and flag in a pregame demonstration of unity.”
As usual, the NFL’s weekend games will be highly watched across America.
But many fans will be scrutinizing and commenting on what the players do during the National Anthem, not just after it.