Colin Kaepernick: Dissent is a Form of Patriotism

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The Star-Spangled Banner – a patriotic symbol of America, and of our freedom. In 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick kneeled on the sidelines during the playing of our national anthem, creating controversy and raising questions on his patriotism for this country. His decision to kneel during this time was meaningful to him and was his way of standing up for what he believed in- whether the media, fans, players, or coaches agreed with him or not.

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His stand against the national anthem, and his reasoning for kneeling was based on his belief of America and was aimed to draw attention to police brutality and violence against those of other colors and races. Kaepernick was speculated in the media for quite some time and ended up as a free agent later because of his peers disagreeing, and not wanting him on their team because of his stand. Kaepernick has had to reiterate his actions to show that it’s not about his lack of love for this country, or lack of patriotism, but the overall principles of American freedom and “justice for all”. What Kaepernick did, and his stand for Black Lives Matter, has spread nationwide and has reiterated an old lesson: courage.

His continuance of kneeling stirred tension between his image and the public- becoming a significant factor in his damaged public image. His stand for what he believed in soon spread onto social media- twitter memes, burning and trashing of Kaepernick jerseys and gear. Because of his stand, “…the NFL had experienced something new: an athlete engaging in a prolonged social protest movement.” (Hunter) The public’s criticism towards his actions led to “…accusations that Kaepernick is unpatriotic and un-American.” Donald Trump stepped in once or twice saying, on twitter, that “I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try, it’s not going to happen.” (CITE) Many people’s concerns stemmed from their thought that his stand was solely for a “hashtag campaign” and that he was an ill-informed athlete just trying to gain social media attention. Unintentionally, his stand created a hashtag “#TakeaKnee” throughout social media, to spread awareness- both positive and negative awareness- to Kaepernick and his kneeling. For the NFL itself, they had to restate their idea that the National Football League is a patriotic symbol in America and that one player taking a stand doesn’t change their mission in patriotism.

Although he received a lot of backlash, he had supporters such as military veterans that agreed with his statements, and football players (NFL, high school, college) who also kneeled during the anthem to show their viewpoint. His self-defense mechanism that he used to state his point was that of bolstering and his attempt to “…reinforce an existing fact, object, or relationship” (CITE) His efforts were to try to influence others that disagree with his idea, or to shine light onto the idea, for those whom aren’t aware of the problem. Although difficult to change people’s minds on a subject as heavy as patriotism and Black Lives Matter, his stand to create awareness was in fact a very monumental one.

Kaepernick has been put in a place where his dissent has been backlashed and hated upon, because of his different set of views and opinions about the way the nation is run. Because of his stand, he has had to repeatedly give informal speeches of debate, trying to defend himself and his viewpoint on America. An apologia is used “…when people believe they need to defend themselves, admit wrongdoing, or justify their actions,” (CITE) which is exactly what situation Kaepernick is in, needing to explain his stand and why he believes in what he does. He explains it’s not a lack of patriotism and hating America, it’s taking a stand for those who aren’t heard, and those of different race and skin who are oppressed.

While his unique stand for patriotism is different than most, the American flag is a symbol of freedom, and grants us the right to stray from the norms without betraying America as a country. His stance was to create understanding and to inform others of oppression and his view of the state that this nation’s in. The LA Times’ article “Colin Kaepernick shouldn’t stand up if he doesn’t want to” appealed to critics of Kaepernick’s by using the persuasion of pathos. The article uses overly emotional language to show justification for what Kaepernick is standing for and argues that if the nation was built on disagreed opinions by founding fathers, how is it that citizens now aren’t supposed to go against the structure of today’s nation. The quote:

Oh, for goodness’ sake. Is it actually possible that 240 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence the message still hasn’t sunk in that in this country, unlike some others, citizens are free to express their opinions? Even when the opinions in question are unpopular or unpatriotic or even, for that matter, wrong? And that the rest of us are free, as well, to express our agreement or disagreement? (Colin)

This form of pathos is to create a feeling of shame and guilt among the intended audience, making them think about the fact that every individual citizen is able to express themselves, and their opinions, in the way they deem necessary to get the point across. The “oh, for goodness sake” (Colin) adds emphasis in a way to make it seem obvious and for the audience to see how they’re clearly irrationalizing his stand. The writers of this article didn’t show credibility through the rhetoric of ethos, instead, they showed how readers (those who disagree with Kaepernick’s views) can justify his reasoning and his entitlement to his own opinions. From his statements and beliefs, sportscasters and social/political figures have, to an extent, used an ad hominem approach to Kaepernick and his beliefs. (Purdue) Their attack on his character rather than his stand and the meaning behind it, is seen through tweets, interviews, and articles. He’s degraded as a person because of his strong belief in police brutality and Black Lives Matter.

Kaepernick’s courageous stand persuaded and influenced others in the NFL and lower level sports to stand up for what they believe in and show that they have a voice. It has shown players that their voices and opinions matter and that they can use them to make a stand. George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL, states that “…the thing that [Kaepernick’s] done probably more effectively than any team community relations staff or owner or coach could do for other players, is [point out] that they do have the ability to affect the national dialogue.” (Colin Kaepernick has done more) His influence on other athletes along with the acknowledgement by a superior in the NFL, reiterates how influential and persuasive his argument is. In 2017, Kaepernick was placed in Time Magazine as one of the planet’s “100 Most Influential Individuals” “…because of his bold and courageous confrontation of perceived inequalities in our social-justice system.” (Orr)

No matter your viewpoint on him and his stance, you can see on either end of the argument, he is inarguably an extreme passionate and dedicated person for standing up for his beliefs and for others that aren’t speaking up for themselves. After his stance, a fellow NFL player, Michael Bennett spoke out about his personal experience where he felt that his skin color was the sole reason he was put into the situation. He was handcuffed with guns pointing at him after the Mayweather-McGregor fight, while walking out of the event. After explaining who he was, a professional athlete who isn’t a threat to society, he was then released with no justification for the “abusive conduct” that he endured (Colin Kaepernick has done more). Kaepernick’s teammate, after noticing his sitting during the first preseason game of 2016, approached him curiously to see why he was sitting, and after talking to Colin, was moved by his stance and decided to show his respects for the Black Lives Movement with Kaepernick.

Many African Americans that have experienced or are aware of the issues pertaining to police brutality among African Americans, respect Kaepernick’s stance and are influenced by his movement, by also kneeling during their games to show support. First, only four players kneeled or sat for the national anthem, and then in just nine games on NFL Sunday in 2016, over 130 players kneeled during the national anthem (Garber) because of the influence of Kaepernick and his courage to stand up for his beliefs. The majority of players who do kneel are African American because they understand the movement on a personal level, however, players like Aaron Rodgers, although not kneeling, respect Kaepernick’s courage and his movement by acknowledging his awareness of the profiling of African Americans and that his teammates do have to deal with situations like that (Colin Kaepernick has done more).

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