Kaepernick is the Real Patriot

Kaepernick sitting during national anthem

Don Rose

Sports, the flag and the national anthem are so interlinked that an old gag has it that the last two words of the “Star Spangled Banner” are “play ball.”

Furthermore, ignoring  the rituals associated with the anthem – singing, standing, saluting or placing hand over heart are viewed in many quarters as a sign of disloyalty to the USA – especially for minorities.

Yet some of these perspectives change. Back during the 1968 World Series singer Jose Feliciano was roundly booed for vocalizing a few jazz-like variations on the anthem. Since then it has become almost obligatory for prominent singers to  perform their own variations, which generates wild applause. (The original melody is an old English drinking song.)

Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title and almost jailed for refusing to be drafted, saying he had no quarrel with the Viet Kong–but today honor him as a hero.

A few weeks  ago, Olympics gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas was the only member of the women’s gold-medal team who stood at attention on the podium with her hands at her sides instead of over her heart. No protest intended–but she drew hundreds of poison tweets. Meanwhile, a couple of white guys, Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs, gold and silver medalist shot-putters, failed to place their hands on their chests during the anthem, but no one noticed.

Consider the 1968 Olympics debacle when gold and silver medalist runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in the “black power” salute and were banned from the rest of the games. Today we honor their act as legitimate protest against segregation.

During his first presidential campaign even Barack Obama was criticized for not holding his hand over his heart for the anthem–and for not wearing a flag lapel pin. But he quickly pivoted on both.

Which brings us to San Francisco back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick–who is biracial–staying seated during the anthem, drawing huge criticism, but explaining it was his personal protest against racism in America.

The athlete was totally within his rights to register that protest. He was performing that most patriotic of acts, expressing himself against injustice, protected by the First Amendment. Neither he nor Douglas nor Smith nor Carlos broke any laws. Their gestures were far less scandalous than burning the flag, which also happens to be legally protected “speech,” thanks to a 1989 bipartisan Court ruling. Even Antonin Scalia concurred.

Kaepernick’s wearing “cops-are-pigs” socks was stupid, but other football pros have joined his sit-down. It’s healthy  that more big-time athletes are taking part in social protest–following the lead of Ali and the outspoken Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. LeBron James wore an “I can’t breathe” sweatshirt  and several men’s and women’s basketball teams wore shirts or made other gestures protesting police killing unarmed blacks.

Kaepernick was not fired – that would have been a genuinely un-American act, because he is the true patriot (not the New England kind).

Had he been cut, however, maybe the Bears could have signed him because they really need a backup quarterback of his capabilities – and convictions.

17 thoughts on “Kaepernick is the Real Patriot

  1. And while stories of kids in school declining to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance are nothing new, and in fact account for the USSC ruling that defines individual rights re private behavior during public loyalty ceremonies (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/pledge-of-allegiance), this recent incident at the link below may well be fallout resulting from massive national attention given to Kaepernik and a mate at 49 games and the women’s professional soccer player for their actions.

    I do not find it difficult to imagine that 25 to 30 percent or so of Americans would condone someone assaulting CK on the sidelines before a football game, or violently assaulting any other American at a public event who does not properly model some ritual reverence for a symbol of American … freedom. And being lauded for it by a specific set of political figures, their doctrinaire supporting groups, and the media propaganda machine that shapes them and so much of our present society.

  2. Ah, yes, the old Easy Rider scene where the Jack Nicholson character explains what “freedom” means to anyone in America who dares to practice it.

    George: You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.

    Billy: Huh. Man, everybody got chicken, that’s what happened, man. Hey, we can’t even get into like, uh, second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel. You dig? They think we’re gonna cut their throat or something, man. They’re scared, man.

    George: Oh, they’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent to ’em.

    Billy: Hey man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody needs a haircut.

    George: Oh no. What you represent to them is freedom.

    Billy: What the hell’s wrong with freedom, man? That’s what it’s all about.

    George: Oh yeah, that’s right, that’s what it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it – that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace.
    ‘Course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom, but they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.

    Billy: Mmmm, well, that don’t make ’em runnin’ scared.

    George: No, it makes ’em dangerous.

  3. Well, I won’t hesitate to name names here. Of course those of a “Trump mindset” would be itching to unleash violence on anyone “disrespecting the flag or national anthem.” This is because, in their warped perspective, they feel they have a monopoly on how to define and demonstrate “patriotism.” This all ties in with the sainthood, the “hero” status, now automatically accorded anyone in US military uniform. To say nothing of the revolting (that’s MY perspective) tie-ins now made between pro and college sports broadcasts and that very US military. I typically watch these things very selectively, and only in bits and pieces (to see if the game looks close; I can’t stand “blowouts”), so I don’t see the beginnings of the shows. If I did, and I was repeatedly subjected to the pro-military propaganda (I would have the volume on my TV muted, of course), I would feel compelled to boycott all such broadcasts. And by the way, here’s a broader philosophical-rhetorical question: Why on earth is it “necessary” to run a loyalty test (“All rise for the playing of our national anthem”) before a sports event can begin?

    When I was a younger fellow, and the War in Southeast Asia was still underway and the White House was still being soiled by the presence of a certain Mr. Nixon, I refused to stand for the anthem in Madison Square Garden before the start of The Millrose Games. Naturally I was accused of being a communist. But verbal abuse was as far as things went. Just last month, I attended a Yankees game in their new stadium for the first time, courtesy of a friend’s complimentary tickets. Said friend was a fellow leftist radical. He declined to stand for the anthem. In our current political climate, I felt it was wiser to simply stand and be over with it. (But during the 7th Inning Stretch I made a beeline for the Men’s Room to avoid the “patriotic” crap that has been obligatory at that point in the game since 9/11.) I am pleased to report that my friend not only wasn’t physically assaulted, but I didn’t even hear any verbal abuse aimed his way. Are the times actually changing, or was it just coincidental that at that particular game not many “Trump types” were in that section of the stadium? I’ll never know. But I do know that Colin Kaepernick has my complete moral support for his actions.

  4. Football (the NFL, of course, not wimpy soccer) is the USA’s most popular sport. In many ways, and for many people, it’s essentially a national religion. It certainly is a national ritual, complete with its own rites, e.g. the tailgate before the game, and nowadays the enormous national flags that cover almost the entire field, the military flyovers, the scantily clad cheerleaders, and so on.

    CK’s protest is quite effective precisely because it punctures the ritualistic nature of the NFL/patriotism cult. Some would say he has politicized the sport, but of course the point is the sport is already politicized. CK’s protest highlights the ongoing politicization of the NFL, among other things.

    President Obama had a decent response to CK’s protest, basically saying CK has a right to express himself. It seems like some fans agree; sales of CK jerseys have soared since his protest.

  5. Am I missing something? This guy, when on the field in his team uniform, is an employee. As such, he has the “free expression rights” his employer allows. Speaking as a former business person, my employees met standards I set for them. If they didn’t like it, they were given the opportunity to make their living elsewhere.

    • Sure. The team could cut or waive him. Apparently they decided they needed a decent backup QB more than they needed him to stand for the national anthem.

      • Walter, it is possible 49er management does not oppose CK’s prerogative of his 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech. Who knows, the person who has the ultimate say may, like myself, think it is important for Americans to exercise this right without fear of institutional retaliation, including punitive employer economic sanction. Idealistic, yes, but isn’t that regarded as the foundational structure of the entire experiment which is the American democratic republic?

    • Yes, Walter, you have definitely missed something. Two things, actually. First, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery or any other form of involuntary servitude in 1865. Second, Feudalism pretty much ended by the end of the fifteenth century. So you’ve got some catching up to do as regards the long struggle for personal freedom in this world.

      As we uniformed indentured servants in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club (a.k.a., the U.S. Navy) used to say many decades ago in Southeast Asia: “They can tell me what to do but they can’t tell me how to think about it.” Good to see that at least a few of today’s indentured servants can still think for themselves and not as their owners tell them to think. Nothing scares the living shit out of America’s business and military (but I repeat myself) more than “uppity” labor. Why, if even one second-string black guy (or one gender-confused Army private) decides to sit down while everyone else stands up on cue at a football game or “war” — nothing but money-making business transactions, after all — then can we not anticipate the death of the Republic any day now?

      What a nation of diaper-soiling bed-wetters.

      • Just a note for the historically challenged, Walter. When I graduated from high school in 1965, my government gave me four “choices”: (1) I could submit to conscription into the Army, (2) I could go to prison for not submitting, (3) I could leave my country and spend the rest of my life in exile, or (4) I could enlist in one of the other three military services for something like $80/month before taxes. At the time, I made more money working part time in a drive-in dairy while going to school. I wanted none of these so-called “choices” and preferred living my life as a free citizen, but my government insisted that I take only those “choices” that it offered. Without the threat of conscription, prison, or exile, I would never have wasted one moment of my life in military uniform as — yes, yes, and yes again — a penurious indentured servant, little more than a slave, actually. Without those implacable threats arrayed against me, I would never have done a single one of the stupid and useless things my “superior” officers (commissioned and non-commissioned alike) made me do against my will and better judgement.

        You can call sort of thing “volunteering” if you want, but in reality it amounted to pure, unadulterated extortion. I talked things over with my step-father — a World War II Navy veteran (in the Construction Battalions, or Sea Bees) — and asked him which form of enforced servitude I should choose if given any “choice” in the matter. He told me that if I enlisted in the Army or Marine Corps that I would “learn only two things: guns and men. And you can’t make much of a living after you get out if that is all you know.” He said that if I enlisted in the Air Force: “You won’t make rank as an enlisted man — meaning any money — for many, many years.” On the contrary, he said that in the Navy, fleet-wide examinations and promotions came more rapidly and regularly and that I stood a chance of learning at least some technical skill that I might use for making a living after my discharge — assuming that I didn’t first get killed somewhere in Southeast Asia.

        So, like a lot of my friends who had a least a small amount of education, I enlisted in the Navy for training in the nuclear power program as an electrician. I had no real desire to do anything military if I could help it but since I couldn’t help it, I took my step-father’s advice. I simply chose the course least likely to ruin the rest of my life for a “crime” that I never committed. Today, you can see how many of today’s free young citizens choose to “volunteer” for military servitude — and no other word more adequately describes this abject meaningless obedience to rank, bullying authority — absent those draconian government threats to our lives and liberties that my generation faced back in the 1960s. Without the draconian Draft or threat of prison or exile, my generation would have chosen to avoid military servitude exactly as today’s young people sensibly do. You really do need to get a better grasp of what the word “volunteer” actually means. I served my community as an unpaid youth soccer coach for ten years, so I know the true meaning of the word. It has nothing to do with killing hapless third-world foreigners or sucking the life blood out of the U.S. economy for never ending imperial boondoggles.

        Here ends the lesson.

      • Mike Murry–And to piggyback on your comments, one of the saddest things to me is the number of young Americans who actually WERE motivated to enlist in the US military in the wake of the events of 9/11 (of which, of course, we’re being endlessly reminded here in the States this weekend, the 15th anniversary of those peculiar incidents never adequately explained by “our” government). After all, “Look! ‘They’ attacked us on our own soil!!” Unfortunately, “they” apparently were a band of Saudis who conspired and acted under the guidance of a stateless individual (of Saudi/Yemeni origin, if memory serves) who’d been armed by the CIA to fight against Russian troops in Afghanistan. How this situation was spun by the Cheney-Rove-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz Gang into a “reason” to invade Iraq is “a tale told by an idiot”! But THAT sordid saga pales compared to the fact that US troops are STILL killing people (even if sometimes “only” by drone) in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya…fifteen long years later. And the U.S. should be held accountable for every man, woman and child killed while trying to cross the Mediterranean after fleeing the abominable mess U.S. policies have created and continue to sustain in the region.

  6. Ah Walter. If you were hiring young, smart people today that kind of atmosphere would get you only retreads. Both my sons are top executives in software technology companies where the programmers are all under 30 and you don’t mess with their sexual preferences or their politics. The boss just signs the paycheck, and stays away from their mind.

  7. Walter.. You hit the nail on the head but this is technology since our two political partys have shipped overseas all of the steel mills and companies that make real things. In the typical tech company in California all the employee has to do is his or her job of building software that changes almost day to day. They don’t work on an assembly line. Their place of work isn’t usually an office building but often is referred to as a “campus”.Employees get free gourmet lunches, have a Karaoke room, work in an open space , no offices. have an exercise room. and often have a bar on the premises. All the companies have HR (Human Resources) departments that oversee hiring and employee relations that solve the problems that the bosses make with employees. Often employees can work from home and make their own political decisions.

    There was a popular song in 1942 after we entered the war and it started like this:
    “This is the army Mr. Jones. No private rooms or telephones. You had your breakfast in bed before but you wont have it there anymore.”

    Well today, Walter, everyone has a private i-phone and you can have your breakfast in bed while” tele-cummuting” on the job. Better get used to it ! It isn’t the army anymore..

    • traven.

      You are right about our army, nor is America America anymore. WWII left us the only economy standing, allowing the dollar to replace gold. We’ve milked that for trillions of goodies our labors have not earned. I suspect you see the end coming in the form of negative interest rates. I surely do.

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