President Obama Says Colin Kaepernick Is “Exercising His Constitutional Right” (Video)
In the 8 days since the world took note that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was not standing during the singing of the national anthem before his football games, the issue has become one of the most divisive in sports and the latest in a series of hotly-debated topics about race relations in our country. In explaining his decision not to stand during the song, on August 29, Kaepernick said “Ultimately, it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust that people aren’t being held accountable for, and that’s something that needs to change. This country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all, and it’s not happening for all right now.” Kaepernick’s statements were in reference to the numerous highly publicized incidents of police brutality over the last several years, many of which have gone with little to no repercussions for those officers responsible. When asked whether he would continue to sit, Kaepernick answered “Yes, I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is somethng that has to change and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
The responses to Kaepernick’s protest have ranged from some labeling him as unpatriotic and anti-military to others likening him to Muhammad Ali and other athletes who have used their platforms for civil rights activism. The matter has become even more complicated, as the heightened scrutiny of “The Star Spangled Banner” has raised awareness about the song’s third verse and its lyrics aimed at exacting revenge on slaves who escaped and took up arms with the British in the Revolutionary War. The lyrics in question read “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave. And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The lyrics have raised questions about whether the song, itself, is an appropriate expression of patriotism.
The issues have grown so hotly-debated, that even President Obama has seen the need to address the controversy. Speaking in China, after noting that he hasn’t been thinking much about football during his trip, the Commander-In-Chief said “My understanding is he’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there’s a long history of sports figures doing so. I think there are a lot of ways you can do it. As a general matter, when it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform, and those who fought for us, that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are, but I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”
In an effort to quell suggestions that his actions are anti-military, Kaepernick has since started kneeling during the anthem, instead of sitting. Other athletes, are now starting to join him, in solidarity, as yesterday, Seattle Storm soccer player Megan Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem, in support of Kaepernick, before the Storm’s game against the Chicago Red Stars.