Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled Banner” as he looked over the Battle of Fort McHenry from a British attack ship. There he saw the American flag waving over the land that was close to destruction.
The battle took place in Baltimore, Md., the same city where deadly riots broke out after young African-American Freddie Gray died of severe spinal cord injuries while in police custody for suspected possession of an illegal switchblade. The police officer, Lt. Brian Rice, was found innocent. Convictions on others were later dropped. It is one of the many recent cases that made national news and contributed to the current people vs police state in this country.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to address this issue in the public eye by refusing to stand for the National Anthem before football games.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told the NFL media following his display of action.
In a nation based on freedom of speech, Kaepernick is using the First Amendment to the fullest of his ability. It is his right as an American. In different ways, other athletes had their own protests. LeBron James and other members of the Cavaliers wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts during warm ups in support of Eric Garner, a 29-year-old African-American male who was choked and killed. He was recorded saying, “I can’t breathe” as cops continued their abuse. Five players on the St. Louis Rams came out of the tunnel pre-game with their hands up as a part of the “Hands up don’t shoot” campaign to respond to African-American civilian Mike Brown and his final words.
Kaepernick’s method of protest is more controversial, though it has also garnered support. 49ers safety Eric Reid was the first teammate to join him in protest and others have followed. President Obama said he understands the persisting frustrations and welcomes an open dialogue. Still, many are angry. They question if this protest and other actions cross the line.
Kaepernick, who has worn socks with pigs wearing police hats, chose to protest in a way many found difficult to support. It’s not wearing t-shirts in pre-game. To his fiercest challengers, he is disrespecting the symbol of this country. It’s a flag that is cherished and honored by people who fought for the right to fly it.
His actions also resulted in security concerns. According to the Bay Area NBC, many Santa Clara police officers are not going to work the 49ers’ first game on Mon., Sept. 12, against the Los Angeles Rams. Of the 70 officers who volunteer to work as security, it’s wondered if even half will show up.
Kaepernick recently said that he will use his voice to make a difference in a respectable way, vowing to donate $1 million to communities in need. This gesture came following the initial backlash.
Just as America was down and out on that night at Fort McHenry, and overcame to fly the flag with pride, present day America will also do so. We have a history of standing up to conflict, standing up for what we believe in. It is our individual right, but we are better when we stand together. It helped make us the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Dr. Martin Luther King brought a nation of disrespected African-Americans together in peaceful protest even as they were brutally abused in several different ways.
By choosing not to acknowledge the National Anthem and the American flag, Kaepernick is choosing to disrespect a nation, and people who gave their lives for it.