Paul R. Lehman,Kaepernick’s protest is a Constitutional exercise in American democracy

August 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Posted in African American, American history, Amish, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, education, equality, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, liberty, life, lower class, Media and Race, Pledge of Allegiance, poor, social justice system | 2 Comments
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Why are some people getting so bent out of shape over the fact that Colin Kaepernick decided to exercise his 1st Amendment right to protest what he sees as injustice in America? Ignorance of the Constitution? The excuse that Americans fought and died for our flag should not be used to justify complaints because all military takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the flag. The flag is only a symbol of the country and should be respected unless one wants to use it for protest, which is what Kaepernick has decided.

In America, if we have a problem with our government, we are taught to not run and hide, but to bring the problem out in the open so it can be addressed. The way the problem is brought to view is through protest. When the police or teachers reach an impasse in negotiations, they either chose a mediator or go on strike or both. Striking is a form of protest that has been used successfully for many years in America. None of the strikers have been accused of being unpatriotic or anti-American. They just want attention focused on their problem. Kaepernick is being patriotic by protesting in order to call attention to the problems he wants addressing.

Kaepernick is not the first athlete to protest by refusing to stand for the flag ceremony; nor will he be the last. His actions are not arbitrary or capricious, but well thought-out and reasoned. He knows that he will have to pay a price for his actions because too many people do not understand the thoughts that led to this action. In an article from the NFL Notes, Kaepernick is quoted as saying, “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. …To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

Regardless of how one feels about Kaepernick’s form of protest, it should not be figured into the equation of right or wrong, because he is protesting as an American citizen. He is speaking out about the injustices visited upon African Americans and people of color in America. Other Americans see that same injustice, but choose to remain silent. Why should Kaepernick be criticized for exercising his Constitutional right about injustices that have been going on for years while America looks on in silence? Some people believe that his decision to not stand for the flag is wrong, but that belief is theirs, and that is fine. What they do not have, however, is the right to select or judge Kaepernick’s manner of protest. They might want to offer their opinion relative to what manner or form their protest would take, but no one can say whether their choice is right or wrong; it is theirs to make.

In America, citizens have for years refused to salute the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and serve in the military. These people never receive complaints about their actions and are never accused of being un-American or unpatriotic; they are left alone to live their lives in a manner that suits them. Two groups of Americans in this category that come to mind are the Jehovah Witness and the Amish. In their defense, some people might call attention to their religious beliefs as reason enough for them to refuse to honor the flag or saying the Pledge and serving in the military. The irony of this defense is that they and Kaepernick use the same Constitutional rights to support their actions.

What some people do not like is for a person of notoriety to use his fame to call attention to his protest. To many people, a person gives up his right to be an individual in order to maintain his fame. With Kaepernick, some people want him to only be a football player, nothing more. If he says something that does not relate to football, he is criticizing for over-stepping his bounds. Many people want athletes to have no opinions outside of their sport. The fact that they are paid large sums of money to use their athletic abilities should be enough to keep them silent about other things. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking robs the individual of his whole being as an intelligent, sensible, and rational person capable of making a decision apart from his professional career. We do not have to guess as to Kaepernick’s motives for his protest, he stated that “No one’s tried to quiet me and, to be honest, it’s not something I’m going to be quite about…I’m going to speak the truth when I’m asked about it. This isn’t for look. This isn’t for publicity or anything like that. This is for people that don’t have a voice. And this is for people that are being oppressed and need to have equal opportunities to be successful. To provide for families and not live in poor circumstances.”

Many Americans apparently think that as Americans we should think and act in certain ways that do not offend the ideas or concepts they hold in high esteem. Were that the case, individual freedoms would be a laughing matter because they would not exist. As Americans, we are encouraged to believe that we can exercise our Constitutional rights without fear of anger, hate or some form of retribution for not walking in lock-step with what some people think is the right way.

Kaepernick did not call the media to witness him sitting during the flag ceremony; he did not seek to create a media storm that focused on his protest. The media took the lead in calling attention to the fact of Kaepernick’s actions, and shortly afterward, judgments and criticisms flooded the airways. Whether one agrees with Kaepernick’s form of protest, as Americans we must defend and support his rights to protest because that is what we believe is our responsibility. Let us be reminded of the importance of the right to be our individual selves by recalling the words of Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.”

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  1. Well said, sir.

  2. I shamefully confess I listen to a decent amount of sports radio. Delightfully entertaining, but not a good way of exercising your mind or expanding your vocabulary. What I found baffling as I was “digesting” the Kaepernick story, and trying to decipher even MY OWN feelings on it, and come to a definitive view, was how many black sports radio hosts were really giving hell to Kaepernick over the flag issue. I suppose the obvious response is “whites have varying and multi-textured views on this, so why wouldn’t blacks have varying and multi-textured views??” But still as a middle aged white male, I felt surprised. Many blacks (and SOME of the more broadminded whites, that is to say, more broadminded than their white counterparts) were saying that because he used the American flag, that people had FORGOT THE FOUNDATIONAL REASON Kaepernick was making the protest to begin with.

    The black radio hosts I listened to also seemed to think the NFL had some right to punish him. For years professional sports leagues have tried to control how blacks protest within their “work environment”. Such as the threats of punishment against the Clippers players (they were never punished that I am aware of, but there was DISCUSSION of punishment if they went through with the “walk out”), the threats to wipe out scholarships after the Grambling football team protest, and the WNBA players who had wore t-shirts in protest. The argument is that in the “work environment”, if they signed a contract to be employed, then they have to follow what they are told on work attire. But you notice when the NFL gets PAID to take a stance on social causes (pink clothes they SELL for breast cancer, military insignia and pre-game propaganda for army reserves recruitment) they have no problem with players going out of the normal uniform code.

    Another thing that bothered me was the SFPD (San Francisco Police Department) was threatening to yank stadium security for the 49ers games over the Kaepernick issue. In SOMEWHAT fairness to SFPD, I think this was because Kaepernick had made more DIRECT verbal comments about the SFPD. But I’m curious—-If whites (or any other “segment” of society) had made similar comments about the abuse committed by SFPD, would they threaten to yank protection or not ENFORCE THE LAWS they are sworn to uphold?? OK, at games, many of these policeman are hired in a PRIVATE CAPACITY. But it seems to MY view of thinking, if you’re not going to care about thousands of people’s safety in a stadium environment, because of the comments of ONE individual (or even the statements of many individuals) you’re going down a very bad “rabbit hole” in terms of MORALITY and a sense of HUMANITY.


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