Stand and Deliver*

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I get it, Colin Kaepernick. It’s a free country. You have a First Amendment right to express your disgust with the United States of America by sitting through the national anthem before a football game. But you still should not have done it.

There are many situations in which people are called upon to show respect for another person, a country, a faith tradition, or an ideal. They may not love everything that person or country or religion stands for. They may even hate it. But it is incumbent upon civilized human beings to respect others’ long-standing traditions. (Don’t get me started on the “burkini ban” in France!)

For example, women who visit the Vatican cover their shoulders. Women in many parts of the Middle East, even Western visitors, show respect by covering their heads. Men remove their hats in places such as churches, schools, and work places. In any country, it would be expected for people to stand respectfully while that country’s national anthem is being played. In the U.S., many people also place their hands over their hearts.

It is a simple matter of respect to do so, and fans are justifiably outraged at Kaepernick for his protest statement. Furthermore, if Kaepernick wants to protest racism in America, there are much more meaningful ways to do so. He could join a #BlackLivesMatter protest. He could use his public persona to speak out on issues that he cares about or get fellow NFL players together to lobby Congress for meaningful legislation to combat the inequities he sees.

In an interview, Kaepernick said he thought his move would open up dialogue on the subject of race in America. But all it has done is cause fans to burn his jersey and post outraged memes on Facebook comparing him to Tim Tebow. And as much as I may agree with his belief that racism is a major problem in our society, it’s hard for me to sympathize with a guy making millions of dollars. Maybe if he were using those millions to promote change in society, I would give his protest more credence.

So stand or don’t stand during the “Star Spangled Banner,” Colin. Just don’t be surprised when your fans boo. They are exercising their free speech rights too.

*Since writing this post many months ago, I have had a 180 degree change of opinion. Especially in light of the way Donald Trump has vilified black NFL players who have had the temerity to protest, however quietly, racial injustice in America, I have come to understand and respect Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the anthem.

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