by Rosemary and Walter Brasch
Before a football game against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, refused to stand for the pre-game patriotic ceremony that is wound around the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner."
Kaepernick later said he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," and said his stance, a quiet form of civil disobedience, was to him "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." Several professional athletes had previously protested what they saw as police brutality directed against Blacks; about 70 percent of NFL players are Black. However, Kaepernick's actions received far more attention because he was the quarterback to a Super Bowl championship team and the 49er--Packers game was televised to a national audience.
The NFL, many of Kaepernick's team mates, and civil rights activists across the country supported his right of protest; that right was burnished into the First Amendment. Others said he was unpatriotic, a disgrace, and a hypocrite for taking a six year $114 million contract, with $61 million guaranteed and the rest based on various bonuses. The Santa Clara police union issued a threat--its officers might not wish to work at future 49er games if the team's management didn't discipline Kaepernick. About 70 police are security for each of the home games.
Before the game against the San Diego Chargers this past week, Kaepernick said "The media painted this as I'm anti-American [but] that's not the case at all."
During the 1960s, hippies often sewed flag patches to their jeans to cover up holes. The establishment coiled up in fear that those who looked and acted different from them not only were unpatriotic but posed a threat to God, mother, and apple pie.
Today, just about every sub-group of society, from homeless teens through affluent senior citizens wear T-shirts, shorts, bandanas, and every kind of clothing imaginable with the American flag depicted on it. At the Olympics, American athletes even wrapped themselves in oversized flags. And no one complained about their disrespect.
During the late 1940s to the 1970s, thousands of persons, mostly in the arts, were subjected to Congressional hearings that were ways to ferret out those whose political beliefs did not match the two major political parties' idea of what a "true American" should be. Businesses and numerous governmental bodies demanded workers to sign loyalty oaths. Those who had no allegiance signed; thousands who were patriots did not and stood up to the politicians and business owners, risking their own careers but knowing such oaths were unconstitutional and discriminatory.
In the 1960s, a few million Americans sat down at lunch counters or on the streets to demand that state and the federal governments adhere to the Constitution to allow all citizens the right to vote and to receive equality under the law.
In thousands of classrooms in 26 states, the day begins with an obligatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, written by a socialist in 1892 and adopted by Congress as the national pledge in 1945. Those who refuse to stand or who stand and remain silent or who don't mouth "under God," are exercising their First Amendment rights.