On Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem
The actions of San Francisco 49er quarterback, and now several other National Football League players, has rightly caused consternation, and even contempt, on the part of many American football fans, and other citizens.
Colin Kaepernick’s action to initially sit, and subsequently kneel, during the national anthem is a disrespectful and contemptuous act for several reasons. First, and most importantly, his action is based upon an entirely false premise. Mr. Kaepernick, and there is little reason to doubt his sincerity, believes that the United States, by the hand of its local law enforcement community, oppresses blacks and “people of color.” Kaepernick is quoted as stating, “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;” (nfl.com 8/16) obviously referring to local police departments, and officer involved shootings of black men, and suggesting that police officers are unjustified in the use of deadly force on such unfortunate occasions. His actions and sentiments are juxtaposed to those of the Black Lives Matter organization, whose origin is based upon the police shooting of Michael Brown in August of 2014. After multiple investigations, including one by then US Attorney General Eric Holder, it was determined that the officer engaged in a justifiable use of force. The “hands up, don’t shoot” slogan, popularized in the aftermath of the incident, and representing what purportedly occurred during the incident, in fact, never happened. Thus, the entire premise for the Black Lives Matter assembly, is false, and the notion that America, because of police shootings of some men, who are black, is oppressing its black citizens, is also false.
Second, although no country is perfect, and men cannot be expected to be other than what they are by nature, sinners, America, by virtue of its constitution, and moral principles, despite its egregious historical failings, today affords equal opportunity for all; and the evidence of this is overwhelming.
In today’s America, blacks and members of other minority groups, are integrated into all levels of American institutions, and society. Whether one examines the government, private corporations, small business, education systems, medicine, law, the military, or sports and entertainment, among other fields, people of color, including legal immigrants, have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and aspirations, as reflected in the professional football career of Colin Kaepernick himself. The chief law enforcement officer of this nation is Barak Obama, a black man, who has been elected, not once, but twice, as President of the United States, in a country with an electorate that is 60% white and only 13% black. There is no career aspiration among American citizens that is “off-limits” as a consequence of one’s race. This notion has been dispelled by an abundance of direct evidence, epitomized by two-term president, Barak Obama. In short, Americans can do anything, and accomplish anything they have the drive, talent, and endurance to pursue. As the great Frederick Douglas, an ex-slave, abolitionist leader, and trusted advisor to President Abraham Lincoln, declared, “Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable…We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!!!!” (Self-Made Men Speech)
Yes, in prior American eras, it is irrefutable that America oppressed blacks, women, and other minorities. During slavery, and Jim Crow periods, economic opportunity to blacks was largely unavailable and unequal. This is not today’s America; this is not the 1960s. In today’s America, you are free to pursue your dreams, and make them a reality; just ask Dr. Ben Carson, world renowned neurosurgeon, and former presidential candidate, who early on was among the two front-runners in the 2016 Republican Primary.
Colin Kaepernick, and every other NFL player supporting his protest of the national anthem, would be well-served to examine the facts related to police shootings in the US. As the Washington Post discovered in its year-long 2015 study, “The kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many U.S. communities – most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men – represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings. The Post found that the great majority of people who died at the hands of the police fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt.” The Post study reflects that the majority of people shot by police are white. Notwithstanding, there is a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics shot in comparison to their proportion of the US populace. While on its face this appears troubling, the occurrence is likely due to the disproportionate amount of crime committed by blacks as compared to whites in the US. The bottom line is that there is no data that supports the notion that America’s law enforcement officers are targeting blacks, or members of any race or ethnic group in the country. As the Post concluded, “The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were, like Snyder (I.e., Steven Snyder, armed bank robber who killed a police officer), armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.”
Third, the national anthem symbolizes this nation’s heritage and foundational values, of liberty and justice for all. Men, including native born Americans who were subjected to oppression within their own country, such as the great Tuskegee Airmen, still demonstrably and nobly loved their nation enough to risks and sacrifice life and limb in defense of a nation and a freedom that was often denied them. These men were and are today, American heroes; and we honor their devotion, courage, faith, service and legacy each and every time we humbly, and with pride, reverently stand and sing the national anthem. These men, and American fighting men and women made and continually preserve this country; and by virtue thereof, afford the rest of us the sacred privilege of living in the most blessed nation the world has ever known. These men, and all who wear our nation’s uniform, including our great police officers, risk their lives to guard our freedom. We, as citizens, have all too few opportunities, to express earned gratitude toward them. The singing of the national anthem, and eyeing of the flag under which they fight, protect, and serve, should be one opportunity where every American, regardless of race or creed, should always be found standing.
As for the NFL, the League leadership and management has acted irresponsibly, and cowardly, in addressing this matter. One does not need to be a constitutional lawyer to understand that neither Colin Kaepernick, nor any other player, has a constitutional right to behave as they choose in the workplace, if the employer deems that such behavior is detrimental to their business; which raises the question: how long will the NFL tolerate such reprehensible behavior by its employees? Perhaps, only as long as their fans do.
Finally, America’s police officers, soldiers, and the symbols they serve under, the national anthem and American flag, deserve respect from the citizenry. “On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 61 hours. Over 20.000 have given the last full measure of devotion.” (NLEOMF) These courageous men and women do not oppress people in this country. There may be a few irresponsible officers on the street in this nation; but it is rare in the extreme. Police officers make sacrifices every day that most of us seldom think about, risking their lives for our protection and security. They deserve honor – not mocking by any American football player, or citizen. A visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, and the World War II Memorial, among others in Washington, D.C. might provide some valuable insight to Colin Kaepernick, and others of his mind, who, because of law enforcement officers’ service and sacrifices, are able to safely play a game to earn a living.
Article By Allen Sutton