A player's quiet protest sparked an important national conversation.

The 49ers quarterback defends his decision to protest during the national anthem.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat huddled on the bench before his team took on the Green Bay Packers in a preseason football game.

As the national anthem played, players on both teams stood to honor the flag. Kaepernick, however, wasn't among them.

This decision — not his electric play that led the team to the Super Bowl just a few seasons back — may very well go down as the defining moment in his career. He seems OK with that.


Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told the NFL of his decision.

The move was pretty shocking. After all, standing for the national anthem is just something that happens before sporting events in this country. His decision to sit it out was met with massive condemnation. It was tough to watch.

But he stood (or rather sat) firm, saying, "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

So let's take a look at why the 28-year-old took a stand by taking a seat — in his own words.

Kaepernick has since elaborated on why he sat out, and it's worth hearing his explanation. By understanding his motives, perhaps it's easier to understand his methods. Below are some of the highlights (but you can check out the entire transcript here).

"There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable," he said about police brutality. "People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

"To me, [protesting] is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military, it’s a freedom that men and woman that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by contributions they have made," he explained to those who criticized his decision to sit as being disrespectful to the military.

He doesn't see his move as disrespectful, however, and he certainly doesn't owe the military any sort of performative patriotism. The military has fought for his — and everyone's — opportunity to protest peacefully.

"This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation and then really effect change," he said.

Protest and criticism aren't signs of hate, but rather of a desire to improve a home that you love, and there's certainly nothing un-American about protesting.

When Ryan Lochte embarrassed himself while acting as a representative of the United States with a lie about being mugged at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics, he was rewarded with a spot on a primetime TV show to explain himself. So why can't we cut Kaepernick a bit of slack for taking a principled stand against a well-documented pattern of injustice happening in our country? Of the two actions, Kaepernick's is far more inherently "American" than Lochte's, hands down.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Just a few weeks earlier, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas faced somewhat similar national anthem-based criticism after she failed to put her hand over her heart during a medal ceremony. Never mind the fact that other U.S. athletes did the same with relative silence from critics.

The truth is that America is a 240-year-long work in progress. Things can, and should, and if we're being optimistic enough, will become better as time goes on.

In order for that to happen, we cannot let ourselves remain complacent, and we cannot gloss over issues of inequality, oppression, and violence in our quest to become — as so many like to say — "the greatest country on Earth."

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Most Shared


Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is a name you should remember. If you don't follow politics closely, remember his name because he's the first Republican in Congress to openly join the call for a renewed federal ban on assault weapons.

If you're a Democrat or a diehard progressive partisan, remember his name because it's proof that as a nation we can put principles before party and walk across the political aisle to get things done.

If you're a Republican, remember his name as evidence that real leadership in politics sometimes means risking your reputation to do what is right even when most of your colleagues disagree or lack the political courage to go first.

But let's allow Rep. King to explain himself in his own words:

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy
via PixaBay

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has brought a lot of attention to the idea of implementing a universal basic income on America. His "freedom dividend" would pay every American $1,000 a month to spend as they choose.

In addition to helping Americans deal with a future in which the labor market will be upended by automation, this basic income could allow Americans to rethink what we see as work and nurture what Yang calls a "human-centered" economy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family

Patagonia has taken "family-friendly workplace" to a whole new level, and people are noticing.

The outdoor clothing and gear company has made a name for itself by putting its money where its mouth is. From creating backpacks out of 100% recycled materials to donating their $10 million tax cut to fight climate change to refusing to sell to clients who harm the environment, Patagonia leads by example.

That dedication to principle is clear in its policies for parents who work for them, as evidenced by a viral post from Holly Morisette, a recruiter at Patagonia.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

Returning to school after summer break meant the return of classes and new lockers, but for me it also meant heading back to basketball practice. I can't say I remember most games or practices, but certain memories still stick in my mind — and some don't even have to do with basketball at all. Like the time I was sitting on the gym floor one day before practice, lacing up my shoes, when an assistant coach on the boy's team came over to me. "Did you lose weight this summer?" he asked. "Were you trying to?" I was 15.

My teenage years, like many people's, were a time when my appearance occupied my thoughts more than almost anything else. The idea of being thinner or smaller was always appealing to me then, no matter what size I was. Given this, the idea of someone — anyone — thinking I looked smaller should have been appealing to me, but when this coach asked me that question, I remember feeling hot with an immediate wave of embarrassment. "How big had I been last year? Did I not look OK then? Maybe I should have worked out more."

The real answer to his question was that I had spent most of the summer playing competitive basketball, working out for three or four hours a day, four days a week. I hadn't really had time to focus on weight loss at all, but I guess it had happened. Suddenly, though, I was feeling like maybe I should have been more focused on it. If this person, a grown adult, had recognized that I was smaller, then obviously he recognized I was bigger before. I had room to improve, clearly, and I still had room to improve. It would be another decade before I finally learned to be content as is.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture