Oh Say Did You See Colin Kaepernick?

QB makes stand by sitting out the anthem

Go to a National Football League game and you probably will see a humongous American flag stretched out over the field just before kickoff. You might see a military flyover. You might see a soldier or three on the video board during a special presentation.

And you definitely will hear the song that begins, “Ooooooh, say can you see … the dawn’s early light …. what so proudly …”

Americans are taught that proudly we hail our flag for the freedom it represents. During a recent segment on the HBO inside football series “Hard Knocks,” L.A. Rams Coach Jeff Fisher was shown instructing his team how to stand during the anthem.

Fisher made it clear that showing respect for the flag was important to him. It’s important to millions of others, too.


But what happens when someone, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for instance, isn’t so proud?

It becomes a national story. I don’t know if that’s what Kaepernick wanted when he explained why he refused to stand for the national anthem at a 49ers game last weekend, but now everyone has an opinion and many of them aren’t flattering.

Before you ask, yes … I would have stood.

Come to think of it, I have stood hundreds and hundreds of times at sports events and other places where the anthem is played. I just think it’s a matter of respect. Too many men and women have shed too much blood in that defense of that anthem, and I feel like sitting would dishonor their sacrifice.

B 2

I did a quick Google search with the words “Kaepernick” and “jerk.” I got back more than 73,000 hits in about a half-second. Anytime you diss Old Glory’s song, a lot of people are going to assume you hate America. That condition can only be solved by having Donald Trump build a wall around you.

The truth is, what Kaepernick did actually was very American. It was his personal, civil protest, his exercise in free speech – you know, that No. 1 American ideal. Freedom baby. He said he sat in objection to the nation’s racial problem.

He didn’t throw rocks. He didn’t set a building on fire.

He made a statement. Having done that, Kaepernick has to deal with the fallout because that, too, involves free speech (sometimes colorful) from those who think he’s a whiny, overpaid ingrate.

He is certainly not the first athlete to use a big stage to make a social statement. Remember U.S. Olympic sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave black power salutes while on the medal stand during in 1968.

B 5

Then, there are the everyday people we see around us.

A guy who lives near me regularly raises a large – and I do mean large – Confederate flag near the intersection of two major interstate highways. My skin crawls every time I drive by, but I also know that being an American it means letting this man have his say.

When I write about things like gun control or gay rights, some of the emails I receive include a lot of words you can’t say in Sunday School. The Founding Fathers never said disagreement had to be addressed in a civil manner.

What they did say in the First Amendment is that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

I assume that includes sitting during the national anthem.

You can quarrel with his method. You can rip him in any of a hundred ways. You can sing the anthem extra loud the next time you hear it as your way of protesting him.

And maybe, Kaepernick might give some thanks that he didn’t make this protest in Russia, China or many other totalitarian nations. He might have wound up in jail. They don’t take kindly to dissent in those places.


After nearly 42 years as both a sports and news columnist, along with a variety of other roles, at the Tampa Tribune, Joe Henderson brings his slant on politics and sports to NewsTalkFlorida.com and SportsTalkFlorida.com. Originally from the small town of Lebanon, Ohio, Joe resides outside of Tampa with Elaine, his wife of more than 35 years. Their two grown sons stop by when there is time, and their faithful Watch Cat, Sassy is always on guard.