On August 26, 2016, all eyes were on #7 Colin Kaepernick, sitting on the bench while the national anthem was playing. The national anthem is typically played at the start of sporting events, and most people stand, remain quiet, and remove their hats out of respect. There is no rule or law that says everyone MUST do this, it’s simply what has become a custom for sporting events. However, Kaepernick changed the dialogue during his preseason game, by sitting for the national anthem. He asserted, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” via NFL.com.
His actions come during a time of great controversy regarding police brutality and racial injustices. Since that day, many other athletes who play other sports have shown their support by continuing the conversation and either kneeling or locking arms. On one hand, people agree and support Kaepernick in his protest, however on the other hand some people are infuriated with him and consider his actions to be disrespectful.
The first amendment of the United States Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Everyone knows the first amendment, as it is the first, and arguably the most important right, the founders of this nation wrote. Cases like W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette and Tex v. Johnson pave the way for people to express themselves through freedom of speech, or in Colin Kaerpernick’s case, lack thereof.
Kaepernick’s action is similar to wearing a band around the arm in protest, or burning a flag, as they are all types of symbolic speech. It is his right to refrain from participating in the national anthem, as a way to shine light on the issues we face today. There are several games left in the season, and it seems like Kaepernick will continue to protest on and off the field, until something changes.
Timeline of events