By: Trever McKenzie ~Copy Editor~
I know nothing about sports. I just played basketball for the first time on Saturday, which I immediately regretted because I was so sweaty. The only thing I know about the NFL is that it stands for National Football League.
However, I was drawn into the world of sports yet again when I saw a video of a man lighting a red Jersey with “Kaepernick” written across the neckline in white letters. ablaze I wasn’t fazed by the video – it wasn’t the first time I had seen a sports fan light something on fire, and it likely won’t be the last – but the issue at hand got me thinking as I learned more about it.
People are up in arms – as usual – because of Kaepernick’s lack of “patriotism,” or whatever you want to call it. “How dare he not stand for the anthem of our country! If he doesn’t like it here, he should leave!” Except no, he shouldn’t leave. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and he’s well within his rights both not stand for the National Anthem and to protest inequality in America. In case you’ve forgotten, the First Amendment of the Constitution, the highest law of the land that regulates our country, protects his right to protest in whatever way he chooses.
There are no laws requiring civilians to stand for the National Anthem. There are etiquette laws, yes, but those are enforced about as much as jaywalking. Kaepernick’s protest falls under the First Amendment, which protects our freedom of speech and expression. I saw this argument on my Facebook feed. Paraphrased, it read, “if you support [Kaepernick] but mock [Tebow], then you’re not American.” But if we praise Tebow for expressing his beliefs, why do we persecute Kaepernick for expressing his?
Kaepernick has also been getting grilled for talking about oppression while being rich and living in a mansion. This argument reminds me of a popular Russel Brand quote: “When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now that I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think they just don’t want to talk about inequality.” If someone refuses to listen to the oppressed people themselves and disregards the people in power who try to help them, how exactly are we supposed to fix the problems? If you aren’t actively trying to solve inequality, then you have no right to tell others how to solve it.
There’s also the tired, often-trotted- out argument of “the soldiers died for our right to respect this country!” that’s been making the rounds again. People seem to have conveniently forgotten, again, that our soldiers are fighting for everyone’s right to express beliefs and opinions. Not standing for the National Anthem is not a sign of disrespect – it’s the expression of belief that soldiers protect every day of their lives.
Protesting inequality is a privilege that ends with imprisonment or death in other countries. America is as good as it is because we refuse to silence the voices that fight oppression. Until we start realizing that the experiences of our minorities are valid, we can never fight inequality the way we need to.
You may not agree with Kaepernick, and you are well within your rights to voice your displeasure at his actions. But realize that what he’s done is not only completely legal, it’s important. His concern is the concern of every minority community. When you have to worry every day about whether you’ll get killed just for being Black, gay, a woman, Muslim, etc. you realize there are many things in this country that need to change.
If Kaepernick was given the chance to undo what he did, I hope that he would sit right back down and protest. He’s doing what we all need to do – say that we’re not going to stand by and let injustice happen. If we have to do that by sitting, then sit we will.