How Free Are We? Freedom

By now, most people are familiar with the matter surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his choice to sit versus stand, during the national anthem. Kaepernick has explained that his protest was in response to the recent incidents of police brutality that have led to the deaths of black people in the U.S. One could ask the question: “Is the situation as bad as it is portrayed in the media?” We can clearly see that there is a division on both sides of the matter but what is undeniable, is that Colin Kaepernick has succeeded in bringing attention to the issue and getting people to actually talk about it.

We have to acknowledge that there is, in fact, an issue, and while Kaepernick’s star is not shining as brightly as it did when he led the 49rs to the Super Bowl in 2012, he is still an active player with many endorsements that could now be jeopardized. Just recently, he signed a massive contract with the 49ers that will pay him an estimated $12 million dollars this season, but he has certainly put his legacy on the line with his choice to sit during the anthem.

Many people, as to be expected, have voiced considerable offense to his decision to stay on the ground, while others have praised him for it. And while everyone is debating whether Colin should have stood during the anthem, we miss the point; How can we disagree with someone’s right to protest, even if we might disagree with his opinion? The lack of desire to see other people’s points of view is tearing this world apart. For example, United States Gold medal winner Gabby Douglas was recently fed considerable vitriol for not placing her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony and was called unpatriotic.

Just days later when Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs, who are both white men, stood with their hands at their sides as the national anthem played during their silver medal ceremony, nobody even questioned their patriotism. When pole vaulter Sam Kendricks who is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army reserves, stopped in mid-stride and to put down his pole and acknowledge the national anthem as it began to play (with his hands at his side), it was seen as patriotic, and rightfully so. He became an Internet sensation with nearly 17 million views on Youtube. Nobody questioned his patriotism.

Sam Kendricks stops pole vault mid-attempt when he hears national anthem:

I know of at least one occasion where United States President Barack Obama did not have his hand over his heart during the national anthem, and he too was called less the patriotic. There is a picture taken during one of this year’s Republican Presidential debates that show all candidates standing with their hands over their hearts with the obvious exception of party nominee Donald Trump. Not only has his patriotism not come into question, but if you were to ask his supporters, he is in their eyes, the very picture of patriotism. The point is that there is a double standard on how tolerant people are to “unpatriotic” signs.

When Muhammad Ali passed way this summer, there was an outpouring of love and respect that still remains. This was a man who at one point risked his career and tested the love of his fanbase to fight for political and humanitarian causes. I wonder just how those same people would receive Ali if he were born in 1987 like Colon Kaepernick, we need only look at the very response that Kaepernick has received. I would be interested to see how many people that are offended by Kaepernick, hold Ali in high esteem. It’s more than fine to disapprove of Kaepernick’s choice but to dislike, or boycott him, is to have lost sight of the very thing that this country was built on; Freedom.

We cannot continue to speak of freedom only when it suits our views or try to take away someone else’s rights just because we don’t agree with what that person has to say. We need to approach this situation with some semblance of curiosity and try to understand other people’s perspectives without necessarily having to agree with them. We don’t need to bend other people’s views to suit our own opinion. Accept that some people will just have a different viewpoint on the same matter. Isn’t this what a democracy is all about? We need first to look inside ourselves and be honest; are we being biased in our views? Then we need to look at other people and try to understand where they come from and actually care, be curious and learn what they have to teach us, even if we do not agree.


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