The New “Kaepernicking”: Redefining American Patriotism

Raeesa Ashique - 2B Electrical
Posted on: September 25, 2016

The return of the pumpkin spice latte, school supplies, and NFL season come hand-in-hand, although some are more eagerly anticipated than others. Some manner of controversy seems to manifest every football season, and this year’s centres around the stance taken by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the topic of systemic racism and prejudice. This is not a physical stance; quite the contrary – Kaepernick has made a statement regarding the prejudice with which American law enforcement and society in general deals with blacks and minorities by refusing to stand for the pregame performance of the Star Spangled Banner.

He initiated this peaceful protest before the 49ers-Packers preseason game on Friday, August 26 by sitting on the bench for the national anthem instead of standing with his hand on his heart. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said.

Since then, he has also knelt for the anthem before all three of their regular season games.

Colin Kaepernick is biracial, and was adopted and raised by white parents in Wisconsin. The five-year NFL quarterback actively supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and has said he will donate $1m to local communities over the next ten months. His signature move is kissing his right bicep, a gesture known as “kaepernicking”. He seems to have redefined that term.

Many athletes have followed suit, including Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Lane, Arian Foster, and teammate Eric Reid, and those from outside the NFL world, such as Megan Rapinoe. Kaepernick also joined an Oakland high school’s football team in protest on Friday. The team lay on the ground with their hands in the air, while Kaepernick knelt for the anthem.

There have been mixed responses to this statement. The team supports his right “to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem”, and veterans have chimed in with the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick. One tweet reads “I serve to protect your freedoms, not a song”. President Obama said that “I don’t doubt [Kaepernick’s] sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that need to be talked about”, while presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested that he “find a country that works better for him”, a sentiment that Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka shared with stronger language. Ditka has also claimed not to “see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on.”

Kaepernick has replied to accusations that he lacks patriotism with the observation that “there’s a lot of racism in this country disguised as patriotism.”

49ers coach Chip Kelly is also supportive: “You look at what’s going on in Tulsa and Charlotte in the last two nights — it’s an issue that’s in the forefront of our country. It needs to be addressed. It needs to be taken care of because it’s not right.”

To sum up the current situation in the US: many are outraged that Kaepernick is bringing attention to the numerous cases of police brutality towards black people by refusing to stand for the anthem, but seem not to care that the numerous cases of police brutality towards black people are becoming impossible to tally. As Kaepernick said, “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick has responded to death threats with the comment “If something like that were to happen, you’ve proved my point.”