Colin Kaepernick hates the National Anthem.
It represents slavery, violence, racism, and a nation rooted in the systematic oppression of minorities.
Isn’t that what he says?
Of course, the mediocre football player – who hasn’t yet been signed by an NFL franchise – has a unique story to tell. Perhaps his life is rife with examples of mistreatment and injustice by a country that has turned its back on him.
Or maybe not. The half-white player was adopted by a white couple and raised pretty middle-class in northern California, not far from Sacramento. According to his biography, the worse racism he received was the occasional stare from curious fellow students who wondered about his adoption.
That’s it. But that’s apparently enough to send him on a pitched tirade against his country and his National Anthem.
“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 has said. “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.”
Surely, someone who experienced genuine oppression at the hands of his country would feel just as strong – if not stronger – about its National Anthem.
Someone like Frederick Douglass, a freed slave who spent his adult life fighting against his country’s greatest sin. What did he think about the Star Spangled Banner?
Quite the opposite, actually. He believed that a great country could overcome even its greatest sin. He was known to play the National Anthem on his violin for his grandchildren and gave a speech after the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery praising the flag.
“if the Star-Spangled Banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land,” he said, “and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army.”
Douglas is not alone. In fact, most NFL players endorse a similar view, The Daily Signal reports.
Rashad Jennings, a black athlete who plays for the NFL’s New York Giants, channeled Douglass in his support for the National Anthem and the American flag. He told the New York Daily News, “It’s nice to know that we live in a country where sitting down during the anthem won’t land you in jail or worse.”
Jennings said he was proud to stand for the song and continued to explain why he supports the values contained in its verses:
I figure if it was the intention of our Founding Fathers to keep America a nation of slaves, then it wouldn’t have chosen a song where all four verses end with ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ instead of ‘land of the free, home of the slave.’
Jennings’ teammates made a point to stand at attention for the National Anthem during a Saturday night game against the New York Jets.
We are a country bound together by ideas and principles and love of freedom and liberty – not by ethnicity or skin color. If we can’t hold together around our nation’s most treasured symbols, then what do we have left?