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

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

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

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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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