Just a few years ago, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick (pronounced Capper-nick) was one of the most known football players in the world–having led the San Franciso 49ers to two NFC championships and one Super Bowl.
His abilities were unique. Strong armed, tall, and could run like a gazelle, Kaepernick had reached the top echelons of America’s favorite sport.
But this week he’s in the national doghouse. Why?
Because Colin doesn’t understand that patriotism–as shown recently at the Olympics by numerous athletes from many countries–is a beautiful fruit of gratefulness.
Here’s what happened.
Kaepernick was found sitting down during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in a recent pre season game while all the other players and coaches stood. The national anthem is sung before most sports contests in America. When asked by a reporter about why he did it, he replied:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
The National Football League does not make its athletes stand for the national anthem, and, indeed, the 49ers said it was within Kaepernick’s right to not participate. But some coaches say they expect members of their team to stand, regardless of their personal feelings.
Here’s how Rex Ryan, the Buffalo Bills head coach, addressed it in a Sunday news conference:
“Anytime I talk to my team about that, if there’s personal beliefs or whatever that keep you from doing it, I understand. But at the same time, you know, you’ve got to look at the gifts that we have, the opportunity that we have to play a great game is through the men and women that serve our country. I think that’s an opportunity right there just to show respect, and I think that’s why when you see our team, every one of us are on that line and that’s kind of our way of giving thanks.”
Most coaches and athletes agree with Rex, including Colin Kaepernick’s birth mother, Heidi Russo who sent out the following tweet following his action:
“There’s ways to make change [without] disrespecting [and] bringing shame to the very country [and] family who afforded you so many blessings.The path less traveled doesn’t need to be one of destruction.”
Russo and many others believe that Kaepernick should be grateful for his nation. He was born in a country where he could be adopted into a white family who cared for him. He was allowed to go to university where he became a star under a series of coaches.
Because of America’s freedom, Kaepernick made it into pro football where he currently has a $114 million six-year contract with the 49ers that makes him the 14th highest-paid NFL player. That puts him in the top 0.8 percent of the millionaire’s club that is professional football. Kaepernick’s income also places him in the top 0.05 percent of Americans. He has much for which to be grateful.
Steve Berman puts it this way:
“Colin Kaepernick is an American. He enjoys the civil rights offered to all Americans, to speak his mind. He enjoys the economic freedom offered to all Americans, to earn a lot of money. He enjoys the social status available to all Americans who work hard to achieve success. He enjoys using his God-given talents and abilities to entertain millions of us while playing a game while others make 1/10,000th of his salary for sleeping in a container truck in Afghanistan.”
“If Kaepernick really believes that the best use of his massive fame is to disrespect his own nation because social injustice exists, and some people are raised without the racial harmony he experienced, he has that right.”
“But maybe, instead of playing the “God Damn America” card, it would be more productive if he could take his $114 million and use it to help some of those who would appreciate his help.”
“In the end, this is America. It’s a free country. And Colin Kaepernick is free to be an idiot.”
Former US Representative Colonel Allen West, himself a black man, was far more upset.
West said a Scripture verse comes to mind: “Wisdom for Mr. Kaepernick: Proverbs 17:28, ‘Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues’ Or as the old folks down South would say, ‘Best for a stupid person to keep their mouth shut and not open it and let everyone know they are'”.
He says to Kaepernick: “You sir, may certainly have the right to sit on your ‘fourth point of contact’ when the National Anthem is played, but never forget, you live in a nation that has provided you the privilege to have that right.”
West concluded with these words: “The American flag has a very touching meaning for those of us whom it will drape our coffin—as it did for my dad…and it will be for me. May you seek God’s forgiveness and find humility because we the people are not going to forget what you did and said.”
So, why did world famous athlete Colin Kaepernick do what he did? Here are a few possibilities:
1. Maybe he has believed the lie of the Black Lives Matter folks that massive racial injustice still exists in the United States. That is a palpable untruth. Injustice will always exist in pockets in free nations and in deluges in much of the world. America is not racially perfect, but is better today than anytime in its history despite the demagoguery of the present Administration to try to gin up the black vote.
2. Maybe he has become a communist sympathizer. Following his latest game, Kaepernick came to the podium wearing a T-shirt that lauded Malcolm X shaking hands with Fidel Castro in the 1960s. That at least fits. Communists hate what the free world stands for.
3. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a Muslim. It’s not totally far-fetched. He has a Muslim girlfriend. Some close to him feel he has turned away from his Christian faith and embraced Islam. He recently sent Ramadan greetings out on his social media accounts. Islam is virulently anti-American, as exemplified by the rhetoric and behavior of the Nation of Islam.
4. Maybe he’s just bitter that he’s about to lose his job with the 49ers and may be looking for another team. Change is difficult, even when you’re making eleven millions dollars a year.
5. Maybe he’s just immature and needs to grow up. We all do in some areas of our lives.
There are two famous black men that Colin Kaepernick should learn from. One is Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who played a critical role in the abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century. He had been a frequent critic of American policy. However, he believed that the dearly held principles of the Declaration of Independence, and its unequivocal statement that all men are “created equal,” would eventually lead to slavery’s dissolution.
Douglass pulled no punches in criticizing slavery as a massive contradiction in American life, but he understood the evils of the system would be corrected by embracing the country’s origins rather than rejecting them. He encouraged black Americans to sign up and fight for the Union under the American flag during the Civil War, played a crucial role in recruitment efforts, and convinced many former slaves to serve in the military and embrace the United States as the vessel—not the thwarter—of freedom.
Douglass was known to frequently play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his violin for his grandchildren in the years after the war. He said in an 1871 speech at Arlington National Cemetery that “if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army.”
The other person Colin Kaepernick should follow is Ray Charles.
When I first heard about Kaepernick’s national impiety, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program in my car. Rush said in that broadcast that he had one response to Kaepernick’s bad judgment.
Then he played, for four minutes, Ray Charles’ moving rendition of America the Beautiful. Here is a link to a 2001 version, sung just following 9-11. Please watch it to the end. It will give you goosebumps.
Douglas and Charles and millions of other Americans have it right. Patriotism is the fruit of a thankful heart toward God, your heritage, and for those who laid down their lives for your freedom.
Hey Colin–Patriotism is a fruit of gratefulness. Get your head out of your butt, stand to your feet, put your hand on your heart and sing!
We will gratefully join you.
“who more than self their country loved.”