Can we talk for a moment about Colin Kaepernick? I’m not a huge 49-ers fan. I’m a Saints fan. Moreover, I’m not a Colin Kaepernick fan. But honestly, I fully support his right to protest in the way he wants to protest. If you haven’t been paying attention, Kaepernick opted to sit through the national anthem during two pregame football games so far. When asked why he did it, he revealed that he is staging a personal protest, citing that he refused to show pride in a “flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since then, plenty of people have shown just how they feel about that. One video I’ve seen shows a man torching a Kaepernick jersey while saluting the flames and playing the national anthem.
It’s important to remember that we are a nation of diversity; a nation of varied individuals with all sorts of different experiences and outlooks on life. While that may hold relevance in the overall conversation about Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue alike, it also holds relevance in how we express ourselves. We have the freedom to speak our minds or boycott products we don’t agree with. We have the right to criticize our government or drone strikes in Pakistan. We also have the right to sit down during the national anthem or refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag. You may not agree with it. It might anger you. But this is well within our rights.
To be honest, what Kaepernick is doing is mild compared to how heated BLM rallies have gotten. Some have even escalated into riots. Silent disobedience is essentially what Kaepernick’s actions boil down to. Something akin to Gandhi’s tactics against the British in India. He didn’t trample a flag. He didn’t disrespect anyone directly. He made a simple choice, and wasn’t even super outspoken about it in the beginning. Someone had to ask him why he didn’t stand. And he has been crucified over it. He and Gabby Douglas are met with outrage far beyond the severity of our social sanctioning of Ryan Lochte and his buddies. Vandalize a gas station and lie about the police robbing you in an Olympic host city? No big deal. We’ll get over it. Forget to place your hand over your heart or refuse to stand during the national anthem? Outrage.
At the same time, free speech and expression isn’t free. It comes with a price. That’s the other part about this. People are going to react. If you willingly dissent—if you say or do something out of protest—that can be an honorable thing for some. However it won’t always be popular. If fact, it usually isn’t, at least at first. Martin Luther King, Jr., were he alive today, would tell you that. His legacy has been a positive one. But at the time, he was well hated by most white Americans in his time. Your public words and actions have consequences. Your freedom doesn’t make you immune to the outcome. Just ask Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty or Don Imus, who on his radio program called the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of “nappy-headed hoes”. He was fired, and people were outraged that his “freedoms were being infringed upon”. No. He had every bit of freedom afforded by the Constitution. No one locked him up on a federal prison for what he said. But what you say can get you into trouble. People will react. And if we’re talking about an employer, that can be a rocky situation. Colin Kapernick may even see some of that sanctioning come his way. Who knows? Stand up for what you believe. There is honor and respectability that is due for having that courage. But it’s not easy. Expect consequences.