Last night, before the start of a preseason game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the singing of the National Anthem.
He did it during the previous two games, too, but no one noticed. This time, it didn’t even become a story until well after the game ended, when a website brought it up, but it’s become a full-blown controversy today with people calling for Kaepernick to be fired, deported, or worse (depending on which anonymous commenters or right-wing blowhards you’re listening to).
So why did he do it?
“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 NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Okay. Fine. You don’t have to agree or disagree with his decision, but the point is that he has a personal reason for not wanting to join in the ritual: He refuses to feign love for a country that routinely oppresses people like him.
I understand that logic because it’s the same reason a lot of younger atheists refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s not just the “Under God” bit; it’s the fact that we really don’t have “liberty and justice for all” in this country, and it’s hypocritical to say as much when you know better. Refusing to say the Pledge doesn’t mean you don’t love the country; it means you want it to improve in important ways and you’re not going to celebrate “Mission Accomplished” when there’s such a long way to go before we get there.
Atheists routinely get the same kind of overblown reactions that Kaepernick is currently receiving from hyper-patriots who think we’re traitors for not joining the crowd.
Apparently, True Patriotism™ has nothing to do with wanting the country to be a better place and everything to do with reciting a handful of words that you don’t personally believe are true.
To their credit, both the 49ers organization and the NFL are on Kaepernick’s side here (or at least they just don’t care):
The 49ers issued a statement about Kaepernick’s decision: “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
The NFL also released a statement, obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
The only people who seem to think this is a big deal are the ones who want to force their own patriotism down your throat.
In other words, the people who don’t understand patriotism at all.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Cozmo for the link)