In August 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during a pregame performance of the national anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans in the criminal justice system. Kaepernick has since been vilified by many as ungrateful and unpatriotic.
President Trump injected himself into this matter by calling any player refusing to stand for the national anthem a “son of a bitch” deserving immediate termination. Hundreds of NFL players, coaches, and team owners responded by taking a knee or locking arms, and they’ve also been called ungrateful and unpatriotic.
As for Kaepernick and other black athletes being ungrateful, that’s just another way of calling them “uppity” for daring to speak up. It’s as if professional African-American sports figures must remain silent and be eternally grateful that they’re not back on some plantation or “shot in the head” like one of Trump’s evangelical advisers stated.
Historically there never has seemed to be a good time or manner for minorities to stage any sort of public protests. Lunch counter sit-ins were initially frowned upon. Street demonstrations demanding an end to desegregation were frowned upon. Rosa Parks refusal to give up her bus seat was upsetting to users of public transportation. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed deep disappointment with folks, especially from so-called supporters, who advised him to wait for a more “convenient” time, place, and manner to stage his protests.
According to those who know him, Kaepernick is a devout Christian who first consulted with his pastor, and they both agreed that faith requires action in the face of injustice. Kaepernick also met with veterans, including Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret, and received their blessings before he staged his protest. Kaepernick stood and cheered when U.S. Marines parachuted into the stadium during a pregame salute to the military.
He was also observed standing and applauding while “God Bless America” was performed between the third and fourth quarters. Then Kaepernick donated $1 million dollars to community organizations and offered to meet with police academy cadets and minority leaders to try to improve police-community relations and make America a better place for everyone.
Kaepernick is a good American, and President Trump should be the last person to question the patriotism of any American. At the height of the Vietnam War, he dodged military service by obtaining four student deferments and one medical deferment for some pesky “bone spurs.”
Years later, Trump told radio host Howard Stern that while others were fighting and dying in Vietnam, he was in the USA trying to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, and that was his personal “Vietnam.” Funny how President Trump has never questioned the patriotism or gratefulness of the white supremacists in Charlottesville bearing Confederate flags.
Thank you Mr. Kaepernick for standing up when you took a knee against injustice. MLK was right. The appropriate time and place to address an injustice is here and now, not tomorrow and somewhere else. Too bad our president has yet to learn that lesson.