Standing up

In Houston April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to be taken to Vietnam to participate in a war he didn’t believe in. The Greatest was stripped of his boxing title and his license to box, and he went all the way to the Supreme Court to argue why it was wrong for him to be forced to fight across the globe when there were racial injustices in his hometown of Louisville, Ky.

Now, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand and salute the American flag before each game during the national anthem. But there’s a clear difference between the actions of Ali and Kaepernick. Ali wouldn’t fight for his country overseas because his country wouldn’t fight for him at home. Kaepernick won’t respect those who have died to preserve his rights because of… police brutality and racial injustice? This doesn’t add up.

Police brutality exists and is a real problem in the U.S. Some police officers perform heinous acts and never suffer the consequences. But disrespecting the quintessential representation of freedom has nothing to do with a minuscule and misrepresentative portion of the police force that does its best to protect us.

This leads to the question of why, all of a sudden, Kaepernick is kneeling during the national anthem. In 2012, the unseasoned 25-year-old led San Francisco to Super Bowl 47 in only his second year in the NFL. In 2013, he piloted the Niners to a 12-4 record as one of the most versatile and athletic quarterbacks in football. In 2014, he set his career high in passing yards, but the team had a .500 season. In 2015, he was a shell of his former self.

The professional quarterback is one of the most highly revered positions not only in sports, but in American pop culture. In reality, each team has at least one built-in celebrity. So it comes as no surprise that when one of the most electric players in the NFL suddenly tanks, he finds a way to sponge up all the attention he can get from the bench. Is Kaepernick passionate in his protest against police violence? Of course he is. Is it right that a recognizable star in our society speaks out against an injustice? Of course it is. Is it right for him to perform this stunt on the football field? During the national anthem? Of course not.

Don’t get me wrong; I couldn’t be more proud to live in a country where we have the right to protest against the flag. But that doesn’t make it right to do so. When Kaepernick sits during the national anthem, his goal is to protest police brutality, but that’s not what he achieves. In reality, Kaepernick sits for those dying overseas so he and all other Americans have rights much of the world doesn’t have, such as the right to disrespect the American flag and everything it stands for.

Kaepernick sits during the national anthem with good intentions, but while he means to peacefully protest police brutality, he disrespects our nation’s troops fighting and dying overseas, and he disrespects the rights and freedoms we so often take for granted in the U.S. So go ahead Kaepernick, protest all you want. This isn’t Vietnam. This is football.