By: Kylan Watson
Colin Kaepernick has opened up a conversation about the socioeconomic pains and other problems the African-American community faces, by not standing for the national anthem. Kaepernick has been the subject of a furious reaction from the public. Some members of the public on social media sites have called Kaepernick a spoiled brat, not black, un-American, and an ISIS sympathizer. As a result of the negative feedback Kaepernick has gotten is there any room for politics and patriotism in sports.
America has a unique ritual that no other country or nation has and that ritual is that the national anthem is played before the game. No other country plays their national anthem during a sporting event, unless it is during the Olympics or an international sporting event. Some may argue that just on that fact alone that the national anthem should not be played before a game because that is making a political statement.
Our country prides itself on patriotism and freedom of speech, but a lot of people are not respecting Kaepernick’s right to not stand for the flag, as a matter of fact Kaepernick is not the only black athlete to not stand for the flag. Jackie Robinson, the first black player to break the color barrier in baseball also did not stand at attention during the national anthem when he played.
In his autobiography Robinson said, “There I was the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.” (http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2016/08/29/jackie-robinson-i-cannot-stand-and-sing-the-anthem-i-cannot-salute-the-flag/, 8-29-16).
Kaepernick is just following in the legendary footsteps of Robinson who also felt that the country was not living up to the ideals it advertised. This is Jackie Robinson a man who had to deal with discrimination, prejudice, and racism everywhere he went when he was a baseball player.
Many Americans fail to recognize that even though these athletes make millions of dollars playing games for children, they will always be recognized by the color of their skin and as a result of many injustices that have happened in this country many of them cannot stay silent anymore.
It seems that Colin Kaepernick is just a gateway into a more buried dichotomy of selective patriotism that America indulges in. Kaepernick isn’t an American because he said something that many people disagree with. An athlete that really touched on this faux-patriotism dichotomy was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul- Jabbar said, “What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here. ” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/08/30/insulting-colin-kaepernick-says-more-about-our-patriotism-than-his/?utm_term=.f35e9f3de0d0, 8-30-16).
Is there room for patriotism and politics in sports, the answer emphatically is yes. As Americans we cannot call for these athletes to express themselves, and then try to silence them when they say something that we disagree with. Athletes are people too who interact and experience a different America than many do. The most un-American thing we can do is silence these athletes and not do our part to listen and try to fix the injustices and other problems in this country.