The National Anthem, Colin Kaepernick, and real respect.

Last Sunday, Hot Firefighter Husband said, “This is the last Sunday I’ll be uninterested in what’s on tv.” Because football. And because being obsessed with politics doesn’t take up nearly enough of his time. My eyes began rolling in big dizzying circles.

BUT THEN here comes Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, letting his brain focus on something other than big men chasing small balls. Okay, man. Now I’m interested.

Colin Kaepernick is the guy who wouldn’t stand up for the national anthem last week at the team’s preseason game. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people IMG_4315of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media’s Steve Wyche. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Suddenly this guy is on par with, like, ISIS, and everyone’s asking why he can’t be more like Usain Bolt, who stopped an interview during the Olympics in Rio so he could listen to the U.S. national anthem – even though he’s Jamaican.

But I’m not asking that. I’m asking why people can’t let Colin Kaepernick be Colin Kaepernick, and why no one appreciates a multi-millionaire football jock who gives a shit about this country’s racial divide. He didn’t break the law. He didn’t insult any particular person. He didn’t start playing a bazooka to interrupt the song. He quietly, respectfully sat down – while everyone else was standing – in recognition of his belief that this country is failing a significant portion of its citizenry. I say: Good for him.

Kaepernick is half black and half white, and was adopted at birth by a white couple who raised him in California with two siblings. His birth mother has tracked him down, although he has declined opportunities to establish a regular relationship with her. Nevertheless, she has declared publicly that he brought “shame” on his family by being disrespectful to a country which has allowed him to achieve such success. The reason why any journalist would report what she thinks escapes me.

Adopted children often are told how “lucky” they are to have been adopted by loving families, the natural inference being that the adoptive parents should be canonized for taking on such a chore. But that’s a myth. There’s nothing lucky about a birth mother unable to raise her baby, and nothing lucky about a child growing up without knowledge of his origins. And in this way, Kaepernick seems extraordinary to me. He was raised in a white community, by white parents he adores, and yet has discovered within himself a heritage with which he identifies. He doesn’t know his black birth father, the person who assured his connection to the African American community, but he doesn’t need to – he is part of it nonetheless, and he will fight for it in his own way.

Listen, we don’t make it easy to protest social injustice in this country. The #blacklivesmatter protestors have been labeled thugs. The poor have been accused of living off entitlements. Upper middle class people who speak up for economic equality are called socialists. If Colin Kaepernick held a press conference to announce his concerns about racism and police shootings, would anyone care what he said? Frankly, I think he chose a pretty tame but effective way to draw attention to an important issue: he did something unexpected, and forced people to take notice.

Let’s set aside the fact that The Star-Spangled Banner lyricist, Francis Scott Key, owned slaves, and once called blacks “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Land of the free, my ass. I’m inclined to sit down for the anthem myself. But that’s not why Kaepernick didn’t stand.

Kaepernick knows the trajectory of his football career is rooted in talent, drive, and plain old luck. His decision to sit down for the national anthem, in my mind, shows respect – respect for the notion that money and a good life don’t absolve a person from recognizing a population in need. The ultimate disrespect, in fact, is the idea that any American should be shamed and derided for reminding the rest of us that we hold certain truths to be self-evident, among them, the freedom of expression. People don’t have to agree with Kaepernick’s decision. But just because he’s willing to get beat up playing the most violent game on the planet – for entertainment! – doesn’t mean he has lost his conscience or his voice.

Speak up, Colin. If speaking up means sitting down, you go, boy.

And Jaguars fans, consider this: he’s battling Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback position.

Boom.

25 responses to The National Anthem, Colin Kaepernick, and real respect.

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, fellow writer friend. Talk soon, I hope.

  1. Matz says:

    I’d agree if he was a good player, and was worth the money he is paid. But, he sucks wad at playing football, is a little pussy, gets paid a BUTT load of money and his ass should be up thanking every teacher, bus driver, firefighter (particularly the hot ones), police officer, retiree, serviceman, etc. who spend their last dollar to make that salary happen by having pride in the country that makes such income inequality a non-issue for him. Fuck him. Let him go play where EVERYONE makes $25,000 and their troops don’t have to go to war to defend the freedom of the country of which he still demonstrates he has no understanding of uncomfortable nuances. (And, no, I don’t really care how well he plays, I would feel the same about Drew Brees). Ok, now you know how I feel.

    • tricia says:

      Obviously income inequality IS an issue for him, which is why he was making his point. Again, I don’t think that living a luxurious life means you forfeit your right to speak about social justice issues. And I bet he IS grateful to all of those people you mentioned – but still wants to protest the institutional racism this country continues to house.

      • Matz says:

        Maybe he should imitate Warrick Dunn, instead of calling attention to himself. If income inequality is an issue for him, give some of his ridiculous salary away to those who need it: black, white, brown, green, or the homeless who live all over the streets near where he plays.

        • tricia says:

          Check out his kidsheartcamp.com. He’s not a dick, if that’s what you’re implying. 😉

          • Matz says:

            Of course, I am sorry for his loss. But, that still doesn’t mean he isn’t a dick. If he and those socks are “humble,” I don’t understand the definition of the word anymore.

  2. I like this post. But then, I joined the military to protect others rights, including the ability to burn a symbol (the flag). I am used to being unfairly and falsely labeled Lesbian or Communist by people who know no history, much less our own Constitution.

    • Pat Spears says:

      Lesbian or Communist—well just damn. I confess I tire of those words being used as insults. Words that describe one’s sexual orientation or political philosophy should not be demeaning. And Colin Kaepernick should get to express himself in any way he deems appropriate. His citizenship isn’t conditional on either his ethnicity or his performance on the football field.

    • tricia says:

      You are a rare bird, Anne. And an awesome one. xo

  3. MPP says:

    Your last point is quite valid. Kaepernick was terrible last year after having had some early success in his career. That is why Jaguar discard Gabbert was signed mid season in a desperation move to right the ship. Kaepernick has also been injury prone, most recently missing the first 2 preseason games this year with a ‘fatigued arm’, not a typical injury one would get at the beginning of the season. My point is, the talk among NFL types the week before the protest happened was that he was likely to be cut by the 49’ers. Then the protest happens. One could argue he sees the writing on the wall and was making his voice heard while he still has a little spotlight left. A pessimist might offer a different theory.

    • tricia says:

      Maybe. But even if he knows his time is running out, and wants to make a point before he leaves – it’s fine with me. That’s what we do – we use our platforms to stick up for our values, right? Nice to hear from you, Mark! Thanks for reading.

  4. Tricia E. Bratton says:

    Yay. Such a good piece. I have not stood for the anthem for 45 years, and I don’t intend to stand for it, ever. I appreciate you having the courage to say a few words about it. It also bothered me when people said he should be ‘grateful’ to white people for raising him and for giving him opportunities. People are always telling foster children and adoptive children they should be grateful. And they hate that. Thank you for this.

    • tricia says:

      You’re welcome, Tricia. Thanks for getting it, sister. xoxo

  5. Carolyn says:

    I love this post, and am sad to say I found your first typo. Miidle…I wouldn’t have said anything, but my Mom would have wanted you to know. 😉

    • tricia says:

      ACK! Thank you, cousin! Yes, your mom would have been the first to notice.xo

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, Jennifer! So fun to see pics of your beautiful family on the Face. Miss you!

  6. Christina says:

    I’m sorry to disagree on this one. It sure took him a long time and a lot of money made to finally protest for “his people”. I’ll be glad to see him benched.
    Love you Tricia!

    • tricia says:

      Sorry, he’s starting this weekend ; ) I’m happy for people to disagree with him. I just think it’s a perfectly reasonable way for him to protest. Love you back!!

  7. Denise says:

    I never tire of the eloquent way you express your intellect ! Always insightful.

    Can’t wait to read your book!

    • tricia says:

      Thank you, friend! Love to have such insightful readers. xoxo

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