Monday, 6 a.m.
One of the best things about our country, perhaps the greatest thing, is that the basic understanding of it is that it cares about its citizens even when its citizens don't care about it.
You can stand on the corner and spew derision in all directions. You can call your leaders thieves and hypocrites. You can dress up like Abe Lincoln and dance the boogaloo.
You can use the American flag as a pop art prop. You can sew it on your bottom. You can make a jacket out of it. You can turn it into a pair of shoes. You can celebrate it or put it on your album cover (I saw a site that listed the top 50 albums that used it), and you don't even have to think of all the citizens who died for what it symbolizes.
Take the national anthem. You can sing it or you can warble your way through it. You can make fun of the lyrics or talk about how off-key the singer was. If you're a football player, you can sit down while others stand to honor those who have sacrificed for this country. Or you can refuse to stand for that and light Colin Kaepernick's jersey on fire.
Evidently, it is all fair. It is all legal.
It just feels wrong.
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I don't know how you feel about Kaepernick's refusing to stand for the national anthem. I don't know how you feel about those who think Kaepernick is a shallow-thinking chucklehead who plays lousy at quarterback and whose knuckles drag while he walks. In a divided nation, you are welcome to take either viewpoint.
Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem over the weekend before going out and playing like a free agent playing with the wrong hand, and you have to say: For a quarterback no one has paid attention to for a very long time, people paid attention. Kaepernick, who has made millions of dollars playing a game in this country, followed with an all-inclusive rip of the country and the candidates who would lead it.
Mind you, I grew up in the 60s. I admire a good protest. (I was in the Flowers for Peace Day massacre, a protest at a small junior college which protested the escalation of the bombing in the Hanoi Harbor. A friend of mine was punched in the eye). Think about the issues, and you can make most statements you want.
But this feels wrong. It feels as if the extent of Kaepernick's protests is to sit on his keister while a song — generally used to celebrate the veterans in the crowd — plays. If Kaepernick wants to get active, if he wants to work with police and communities, I'm all for it. If he wants to make things better instead of just whining on the sidelines, I'm for him. Anything else is just the entitlement of the privileged.
"There's a time and a place," former 49ers' Alex Boone said on ESPN. "Show some respect. You should have some f---ing respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom. We're out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their lives, and you don't have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts."
And that's the thing here. Kaepernick shouldn't take a seat; he should take a stand. He should fly across the country and help mediate. He should. What he does -- or doesn't do -- during the anthem should just be a start. Sitting is by definition an inactive stance. If Kaepernick is to be taken seriously, he needs to take an active role. He needs to be a part of community action. He needs to meet with policemen.
Instead, I would suggest that Kaepernick consider what he would say if he happened to be born in, say, Iran. Or Russia. Or China. Would he be quite so mouthy then?
Of course not. So to protest America, Kaepernick is hiding behind one of American's greatest freedoms. Speech. Kaepernick protests America, pretty much, because America allows it.
I've said this before, but I'll repeat it. I've heard a lot of National Anthems from covering the Olympics. And I stood for them all. No, not to endorse the nation's policies or history of current view of justice. But to respect those who sat around me and who loved that country. I've smiled at Great Britain's anthem and Israeli's and China's and Ireland's and others.
Do you remember back when Denver's Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem? Did he really think that the paying customers of the Nuggets were going to swing national policy? Does Kaepernick think that sitting down is the idea that is going make this country better?
Look, we have problems. We are not a perfect nation. And it's going to take a lot of work that doesn't involve sitting to solve it.
Oh, there are those who celebrate Kaepernick's stand. He's been compared to Muhammed Ali and Tommy Smith.
Again, I don't deny the legality of what Kaepernick is doing. I understand that a lot of people admire any athlete who cares about society. I just don't think it's enough.
And I think that if you consider Kaepernick's quarterback career, you'll decide this.
The guy is going to spend a lot of time sitting.