A week ago, we honored law enforcement personnel during National Police Week. This weekend we honor those we’ve lost serving in our armed forces.
Both groups are heroes. Whether serving in the military or serving in public safety, these are people who potentially put their lives on the line each day they put on the uniform.
These are people who deserve our respect: law enforcement and military personnel.
I’m a sports fan, and one of the sports I follow pretty closely is football. Despite having covered an NFL team and having stepped inside an NFL locker room to ask questions of winning and losing players after games, I still enjoy following the league.
So what does the NFL and football have to do with National Police Week and Memorial Day?
His name is Colin Kaepernick.
He’s an NFL football player who was a member of the San Francisco 49ers last season. He is currently without a job (as of this writing) but was being worked out this week by the Seattle Seahawks.
None of that matters as much as what Kaepernick has done in the past.
While with San Francisco, Kaepernick has been a lightning rod for controversy. One time he wore socks that featured pigs on them with police uniform hats on their heads. Throughout much of 2016, he refused to stand during the national anthem, instead kneeling during its playing before games.
Now there is a national debate as to whether Kaepernick — who has shown to be a decent player on the field — is being blackballed by the league because of his actions.
Many players with less ability at his position have been signed this offseason, yet Kaepernick remains available and Seattle was the first team even to work him out.
My problem isn’t with the cause. If Kaepernick feels that he has to be a voice for an oppressed segment of our society, I say good for him. That’s a noble cause in itself. But I have a huge problem with his execution.
In today’s society, we give a lot of respect to the feelings of others. The Washington Redskins have been pressured heavily to change their nickname because of the pain it could cause some.
Confederate flags are considered taboo because of the implied racism and the offense it brings as a symbol to some people.
And let’s be honest, the flag itself is just a piece of cloth. It is the meaning behind that flag that causes the issue.
That’s why I have a huge problem with Kaepernick. The national anthem is a representation of the freedoms we enjoy — including the freedom of speech that gives Kaepernick the right to wear those socks and not stand for the anthem.
But it’s also a representation of the United States military. It also represents the people who have died to provide us with our freedoms. It represents the folks that we honor this very weekend. To not stand during the anthem is offensive to many who fought wearing that uniform. The socks are offensive to many law enforcement officers.
Those are the people we should be most worried about offending.
I’m in favor of a world with varied opinions and respect for those opinions. It’s part of the collective freedoms we are honored with thanks in large part to the people who have put their lives on the line to provide them.
But we need to stand united behind the real heroes of our society. We need to stand in support of the national anthem, and by extension the people who lost their lives in support of the stars and stripes. We also need to support — not denigrate — the people who put their lives on the line to provide law and order.
To be clear, Kaepernick has the right to do what he did. I don’t dispute that. But I have the right to say he was wrong. Not because he offends me, because he really doesn’t. But because he offends many of those who have earned our respect every day they put on a uniform.