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Kaepernick and the Anthem

September 1, 2016

I’m sure by this point everyone who’s turned on a television or radio, or gone online in the last few days has heard of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who refuses to stand while the National Anthem is played before football games in protest of oppression of African Americans and people of color in the United States. On the news this morning I heard Colin Kaepernick referred to as an “athlete activist” and I’m not sure I agree with that label. By definition, an “activist” is an active advocate of a cause and when I think of Colin Kaepernick simply not standing while the anthem is being played before a football game I’m not thinking of anyone who’s actively engaged in something that’s going to effect change. I think he’s maybe raising awareness of a problem and I think he’s definitely raising awareness of himself, but I don’t think he’s doing anything to fix the problem.

What’s an “athlete activist”? Professional wrestler John Cena who’s granted something like 500 wishes for Make-A-Wish is, to me, an athlete activist. NBA superstar David Robinson who annually donated 10% of his salary, or roughly $17 million to charity is, to me, an athlete activist. Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph who was visiting a Tallahassee school with some of his teammates and who sat down and ate lunch with an autistic child who eats his lunches alone is, to me, an athlete activist.

If you’re like me, and assuming you’re not related to him or one of his teammates,  you’ve probably never heard of Travis Rudolph before right now and I include him in my list because I saw this story on the news this morning and I thought it was touching. Touching, positive news is a rarity nowadays so I wanted to share it with anyone who happens along here and reads this. You can see the CBS News story on Travis Rudolph and a kid named Bo Paske who eats lunch alone HERE.

I understand there are issues to be taken with the anthem and I understand that other African American athletes, going all the way back to Jackie Robinson, have had a problem with the anthem, but for me the bottom line is that while I agree something needs to be done about racial inequality in the US, I don’t believe that sitting down while the National Anthem is being played is the answer or that it accomplishes anything. For me one’s behavior while the anthem is being played is a matter of respect and the bottom line in all of this is that a lot of people with a lot of heart and a lot of courage – more of both than I’ve ever had or will ever have – died for that flag. While we might not agree with why or how they died,  or want to stand for everything that flag represents, we stand for those people. We stand for them and their parents and their siblings and their children and their loved ones. They’re people, they’re human beings, and they gave something, regardless of the reasons, for us, and we stand for them because they deserve our respect.

To not respect those men and women, to sit at a time we should be standing and thinking of them, just smacks of  conceit to me.

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