colin kaepernickWhile I was out of town this weekend, on a marathon run to Monterey County to celebrate my 30th reunion with the amazing Alisal High Class of ’86, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers took a seat and started a controversy. I heard about it immediately, when my NFL app fed me the news bulletin. I saw the backlash immediately, too, on the social media platforms I follow. Many spoke out instantly with disdain for his actions and for the words Colin Kaepernick chose afterwards to explain his actions. My own reactions were mixed and I decided to let the thing play out a little, while I enjoyed the weekend. I did.

My initial thought, and the one I shared with the lovely companion I had along on the ride, was this: I had no problem whatsoever with what Colin Kaepernick did, but I thought he was dumb for doing it. My thoughts on the matter have evolved from my initial reaction, as thoughts should, but they haven’t necessarily changed. I still stand firmly behind the actions of the sitting QB, but I’ll watch with interest before I judge the man.

Why I defend his right to take a seat during the national anthem should be pretty obvious; I believe in the rights of people over the rights of nations. I adhere to the philosophy that a person has a right to peaceably protest in any manner that they choose. I believe that every topic can be viewed from multiple perspectives and, because of that, I think we need to be tolerant of multiple points of view. I also believe inequality is an issue in this country – on this planet – and that needs to be addressed. So if a man wants to take a seat to protest his perception that the issue of inequality is not being properly addressed, kudos to him.

Why my initial reaction was that Colin Kaepernick was dumb for taking this stance is a bit more complicated and, probably, unfair to him. I viewed the man as a privileged athlete with a lot to lose, and I saw him as an individual who had – to my knowledge – never taken a stand like this before. I questioned, internally, whether or not he was doing this to bring awareness to a cause or doing this to get attention, and if he truly understood the implications of this action. He painted a target on himself, and became a martyr for a cause that I wasn’t aware that he believed in. He was shooting his career in the foot and I wasn’t sure that he was prepared for the aftermath.

But that was hubris on my part. To assume that I know anything about the struggles another man has gone through, inside his own self, to get to the point where he takes such a stand, well that is arrogance. I don’t know what led Colin Kaepernick to decide to sit during the national anthem and I don’t know what he will do next, now that he has. If he has thrown himself on the sword and expects that to be all he has to do then my initial reaction stands. If, however, this action is only the beginning and Colin Kaepernick becomes a champion in the fight against inequality then my initial reaction was wrong.

Regardless, it was his choice and I defend that choice. The song he sat through repeats the line “land of the free and home of the brave” four times in the full version, and Colin Kaepernick bravely exercised a freedom. He risked a great public and professional backlash to make what he feels was a necessary stance. We should honor that. We should wait a little longer before placing judgments on the character of the man. We should honor the constitutional rights that he has, that are echoed in the very song that he sat through. We should watch his actions now.

If he ducks and dodges, racing out of bounds, then we can judge his actions unworthy. If he stands tall against the rush and continues to deliver strikes against injustice, then we can judge his actions noble. Either way we should judge his actions as free, and defend his right to make them, while that banner yet waves.

I think that is what America is supposed to be about.

4 thoughts on “Standing Behind the Sitting QB

  • Lori

    While looking at various discussions about him I found a common factor about those who spoke out against him. I found it sad and just another nod to me how differently people see things.

    There was a time when nothing could shake my faith in our Nation. I was a fly the flag high kind of gal. Then my kids grew up and left for college they both ended up in a town with not much diversity. It was then we learned that some parts of our society could careless if these kids were raised in a two parent family, gave back to their community and were respectful young men. What some people saw them as was “suspicious” looking. It was then and multiple times after that I was dismayed and quite frankly saddened by the fact that we were not seen in society as I thought we were

    • Tom

      Lori, it saddens me to hear about your experiences; it is always disheartening when the world shakes our faith. The truth is, intolerance is a real and unbearable reality and sometimes all we can do is speak our mind against it. I, too, was a partisan flag-waving nationalist for most of my life but my eyes were shut. I wanted to believe the dream of America was the reality of America. It is not. I still believe in the dream of America, on the principles this nation was founded upon, but I am not blind to the realities we have seen in the execution of those principles. I am not blind to the inequalities we have suffered as a nation along the way or the inequalities we still see today.

      I remain hopeful that we will see real change in our lifetimes. I remain convinced that the bigotry we have seen resurface in the public eye during this election cycle is a blip on the radar; a mere bump in the road. I fight the skepticism of the same. I don’t know any other way to be other than optimistic.

      Thank you for reading and sharing, Lori. 🙂

  • Jules

    Great read, Tom. You hit on some good points that I agree with, especially the one that reminds us NOT to assume you know what another person feels or thinks. Assuming is dangerous. As the saying goes: “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

    • Tom

      Ha! Thank you, Jules, for reading and responding. It would have been easy for me to go with my gut reaction. I am, after all, not a fan of the San Francisco football team nor a fan of Colin Kaepernick himself as the QB of that team. But I cannot ASSume I know what is in his heart. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach on the man but, like I said, I will always defend the actions of a peaceful protester.

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