EDITORIAL: 49ers QB Kaepernick exercising his rights

York Dispatch
  • San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem.
  • Kaepernick is protesting police misconduct and minority oppression in America.
  • Kaepernick is slated for a base salary of nearly $12 million this season.

Friday night, tens of thousands of folks all across York County stood up while the national anthem was played at high school stadiums on the opening night of prep football action.

It would be interesting to know how many fans in the stands were thinking about Colin Kaepernick when the "Star-Spangled Banner" was performed.

It had to cross more than a few minds.

After all, the Kaepernick controversy has been raging for more than a week now. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback is refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest police misconduct and the oppression of people of color.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team's NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego on Thursday.

Not surprisingly, Kaepernick's actions have sparked a social media firestorm. Also not surprisingly, the reaction to Kaepernick's protest has been overwhelmingly negative, in York County and beyond.

There's no debating that Kaepernick has the absolute right to sit or kneel during the national anthem. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution.

But is it the right thing to do?

For Kaepernick, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

The quarterback desperately wants to bring attention to what he perceives to be police wrongdoing, especially in minority communities. There is no denying he's accomplished that goal.

People are talking about Kaepernick's actions. Unfortunately, the discussions are often lacking in civility, but at least the topic has become part of the national conversation. That's a good thing.

Decision comes at a personal cost: In addition, there's no doubt that Kaepernick's decision will come at a high personal cost. The quarterback can forget about any future endorsement deals. He is now a corporate pariah.

His future in the NFL is in peril, too. He enters the season as the 49ers' backup QB, and his unpopular stance will not help his long-term chances of staying in the league.

Many people are blasting Kaepernick because he's being critical of a nation that has provided him with a lifestyle that most of us can only dream about. He has a base salary of $12 million this year.

Kaepernick's income, however, doesn't take away his rights as an American. In fact, some would say his high profile comes with a civic responsibility to speak out about injustice. He's also putting his money where his mouth is. He's promised to donate $1 million to organizations that help people affected by the issues he's spotlighting.

Other critics are ripping Kaepernick for disrespecting the military and the flag. Kaepernick has said repeatedly he has nothing but admiration for our armed forces and that he loves America. In fact, that's precisely why he's protesting. For Kaepernick, police misconduct and minority oppression have no place in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In fact, a strong argument could be made that Kaepernick's actions are more patriotic than those who stand for the national anthem but  mindlessly chat with their neighbors while the song is being played or those who simply tune it out completely.

Reasonable critics: Reasonable people can and do disagree with Kaepernick's actions. Many rightfully believe that Kaepernick is painting all policemen with one broad brush.

The QB obviously went way over the line recently when he wore socks with a cartoon pig character wearing a police hat during a 49ers practice. That was unnecessarily insulting to the many fine officers who protect us on a daily basis.

You could also reasonably argue that he could have found a different and less provocative way to express his views.

Still, there's no debating that Kaepernick's actions are well within his rights as an American, and there's no debating that he is sparking a long-overdue national discussion about police misconduct.

U.S. soccer star Rapinoe joins national anthem protest

Those issues might have crossed the minds of more than few York County folks who proudly stood while the national anthem was being played Friday night.

Maybe, because of Kaepernick's actions, they actually listened to the words and the music instead of daydreaming. Maybe they sang a little louder. Maybe they thought about the brave men and women who protect and serve on a  daily basis. And maybe they thought about police misconduct and minority oppression.

If that was the case, then Kaepernick's protest might have achieved something truly meaningful and truly lasting.