Dear Colin Kaepernick,
Well, your decision to sit out the National Anthem at the beginning of your last game certainly garnered media and national attention. I understand that you are frustrated with what you see happening to people of color in our country. Many of us are outraged right there with you.
I’m afraid, however, your protest was ill-conceived. Let me explain.
First, it took a total of 3 games before anyone even noticed that you were protesting. You sat out the National Anthem in two other events as well, but because you weren’t dressed to play people either didn’t notice you, or they thought you were sitting down because you are a spoiled brat who didn’t get his way. It seems it was the first, and that leads to the bigger problem. People didn’t notice.
Its not much of a protest if no one knows you are protesting. So, thank you for suiting up and continuing on. We finally saw you. Well, some did. I haven’t watched the 49ers since Montana retired. And I haven’t cared about a California football team of any level since Lane Kiffin went to coach college ball there. So, I didn’t see you. But others did, and thanks to social media, they let me know about it.
After looking at Twitter, it seems there are lot of people letting others know about it.
First, let me tell you that I wholeheartedly support your right to protest peacefully in any way you see fit, for any cause you feel is worthy, at any time, anywhere. That’s what makes this country great. If you had refused to stand for the Egyptian or Russian anthems, you might be in jail right now. They kind of have that going on at the moment. If you were protesting how minorities are treated in some other countries, you might be dead already.
It appears that this flag you cannot respect is the very thing that protects you to protest it.
You see, it doesn’t matter that individuals on Twitter are calling you every bad name they can muster. Their small mindedness is irrelevant. After all, you were expecting that. They don’t represent the flag you cannot respect. They are just protected by it like you. And it doesn’t matter if endorsement contracts disappear (they probably won’t) or if you get fired from football (you definitely won’t). If you go out there on the field and show us the spark of your rookie year, your place in football is secure.
And I understand that this year is different from last year, or the year before. We have much more injustice being played out before our eyes in the media. Sometimes that injustice is aimed at a person of color who has been arrested, detained, or even killed for no apparent reason whatsoever. And sometimes that injustice is aimed at the men and women in blue who acted appropriately under the split-second circumstances of their lives, but early reporting tried to paint it as something different, and even after all the facts are out people still live in the early days of half-truths or untruths. You see, the injustice sometimes floats both ways.
And neither of them are represented by our flag. A country song that still brings tears to my eyes at times says, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” I realize some interpret that as “I’m proud to be a white American.” And sometimes, that may be the truth of the song in day to day living.
The song also says, “And I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.” And you know what? That’s not just white Americans feeling that way. It isn’t just white Americans who died in the many wars, both just and unjust, in which our country has engaged over the years. People of color have gladly stepped up and given their lives in defense of this country, at least the concept of this country, where “all men are created equal.” Yes, I realize when that line was written, not all men were treated as equal. And women. Well, let’s just not discuss how women are being treated in this country right now. And religion. OK, I won’t talk about religion either.
The great thing about this country is that we wrote things about it as a vision statement. It is a statement of what we visualize our country to be. It is a future statement written in the present. We aren’t there yet. Even after electing an African American president, we aren’t there. Some have seen his presidency as a way forward for all people of color. Others have silently, or not so silently, said to themselves, “OK, we did that. Now we never have to do it again.”
We aren’t there yet. But as a nation, I have to believe that we are slowly (too slowly for certain) working our way toward equality for all. We’ve passed laws to try to make that happen. In recent days we’ve expanded those laws to include others that weren’t allowed to be included the first time. Not everyone agrees with them. Not everyone obeys them. We’ve got laws about how to drive that are not followed. And laws about gun control that aren’t followed. And laws about…well, you get the idea. We are a nation of laws, and our laws are constantly trying to make this country better and safer and stronger. But we aren’t there.
So, Colin, its ok if I call you Colin, right? So, Colin we are the grand experiment of personal freedoms living in the not yet. Every day we inch our way closer. Every day the light becomes a little brighter. Every day more people become educated and find their way out of intellectual poverty.
There is a lot wrong with this country, Colin. Our political system is in shambles and quickly becoming the laughing stock of the world. Our best and bravest are dying on foreign soil even while we are not at war with anyone. Big corporations and the one-tenth of one percenters have too much clout and control over our lives. We have greedy people sucking the very existence out of some who struggle to eat from day to day.
And none of that can be laid at the feet of the American Flag. That’s on individuals who don’t believe as you and I do, Colin, that all men (and women and others) are created equal and deserve equal treatment.
Protest, Colin. You have the stage. You are privileged to have both the money and the spotlight. Make it count. Make a difference. I’ll even join you if you’ll have me. I don’t like how people of color are treated by others either. I don’t like how the LGBTQ community is treated either. We need change. There is no doubt about that.
But understand this. Refusing to stand for the National Anthem because you can’t respect the flag does not equate to a raised fist on the gold medal stand of the Olympics. Different times require different actions, Colin.
The nation is watching you, Colin. And right now, most of what I see is that the majority of people don’t care about your protest. You’ve made the protest about something its not. Find a way to make a difference, Colin. Find a way to matter to the world. I, for one, would be a fan again if you do.