Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

The Case for Colin Kaepernick American Not a S.O.B.

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The President of the United States of America the most powerful person in the free world made the following remarks the other night in Alabama setting in motion a wave of protests from NFL players across the league.

His comments were primarily aimed at African American players like Colin Kaepernick who have openly protested racial bias and police brutality in black communities by taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.

Mind you, Kaepernick didn’t tear the flag in two. He didn’t burn it on the sidelines. He didn’t renounce his citizenship. He didn’t launch long diatribes be-deviling and be-damning America. He didn’t castigate the NFL or berate its commissioner Roger Godell. He didn’t call for retaliation against police officers. He didn’t rail endlessly about the virtues of his actions and the vices of his detractors. And the fact that he didn’t vote in the last presidential election has nothing to do with the truth of his objections nor a reason to delegitimize his actions.

He did make comments about oppression in the context of why he did not vote in the last presidential election and wore socks depicting police officers as pigs. He is also reported as stating that if he returned to the NFL he would stand during the national anthem.

He took a knee during the national anthem. He made his point albeit many people have missed the basic point of his taking a knee in the first place. He quietly bowed down to show his disapproval of the continued persecution and mistreatment of black people in America. He humbly registered his dissent against the “many thousands gone; “injustices in neighborhoods and communities where African Americans and other people are wrongfully excoriated, demonized and gunned down in cold blood on city streets of America.

He employed a method of complaint as American as apple pie- nonviolent protest against injustice- the power to speak openly against wrongs which have been justified as “rights” and deemed “just desserts” by bigots and haters, adding fuel to the fire of those cruel and nihilistic elements which instill fear and devalue and destroy the lives of those who are different or other in America.

It took enormous moral and physical courage for Colin to “stand up” by kneeling down and by so doing he may have put at risk his NFL career.

And so amid the cacophonous and audible complaints of sports fans, and with the media and the general public decrying his actions- and with the profusion of denunciations and death threats on his life- some have forgotten or ignored the causes for Kaepernick’s dissent.

Many people have lamented that protests by athletes during the national anthem ultimately disrespect the American flag but what of police officers with American flags sewn on their uniforms over their hearts blasting into eternity innocent black men and women who don’t deserve to have their blood spilled and their lives stolen? This kind of behavior does shows more disrespect to the flag than taking a knee during the national anthem.

There are many good police officers who have had diversity training and do well in their challenging profession, but numbers of them-too many of them- have wrongfully and needlessly killed African Americans for no justifiable reason other than fear, suspicion, ignorance and race hatred.

In a society where some legislators want to ban public protest altogether and other people strongly exclaim that sports should not allow such “insolent” behavior by athletes, and powerful people such as President Donald Trump, have urged the removal of those athletes from teams and exhorted fans to walk out of stadiums, have we developed collective amnesia about the real definition of what it means to be an American?.

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. A core value is the freedom to speak truth, right wrongs, protest injustices, and turn right side up what has been turned up side down. Dissent is a cherished virtue of our democracy from its beginning to the present. It has given us the wings and courage to rise above calamity by fighting discrimination and oppression, granted us the temerity to push victoriously against impossible odds as a nation and as ethnic and racial groups, and it has rallied people to protect our nation as many soldiers and citizens have given their “last full measure of devotion” by fighting the good fight against all forms of tyranny and by holding fast to the higher principles of freedom embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights and other great documents of freedom.

This is our country at its best.

It is true that owners of teams get nervous when controversies surrounding these protests emerge because of the potential for lost revenues from disgruntled fans and advertisers. Football is big business in America and if such actions are allowed to spread like wildfire on dry brush even big business runs the risk of being consumed by those fires.

But freedom is the gold standard of free enterprise in a free society. Without the freedom to disagree, dissent and take risks, America could not have come this far or sustained the power of its enormous managerial and entrepreneurial wealth.

It is also true that fans want to see players play ball and contend for championships on the gridiron than see them protesting at game time.

While I understand all points of view, Kaepernick’s actions did not stop the game or cut into NFL profits. Fans still gulped their beer, wolfed their hot dogs and pizza and cheered and jeered their teams of choice. Colin Kaepernick just gave them more “food” for thought.

Silently taking a knee during the National Anthem spoke boldly to many people. He made some people glad and made some people mad. This singular quiet act of civil disobedience-which is the American way of nonviolently addressing such problems-may possibly and hopefully prevent any future eruptions of violence because his right to protest was not permanently suppressed but legitimately expressed and may help elevate into our national consciousness and engrain in our moral and civic will a permanent remedy to this long standing problem.

Given that Colin still cannot find a team to use his still viable talents, will he be faced with the prospects of rusting out in oblivion rather than wearing out from an active career on the playing field? Landing a place on a NFL team and allowing him to play again will lift the virtual ban on the man for doing what is perfectly and patently American.

Freedom to express dissent non-violently against injustice is the meaning of America. This goes for athletes as well as Agnostics.

Colin Kaepernick is an American who believes in freedom. He took a knee during the National Anthem not only because he cares about the manner in which some black people and others are treated in America but also because he is concerned about the future of all Americans. His public opposition has implications for all people suffering from similar forms of devaluation and injustice and not just African Americans.

To omit and obviate this truth and to castigate him for his actions misses entirely the point of making America better for all people by removing all harm from all citizens who can simply lose their lives during a routine traffic stop.

This continuing form of injustice in America must be finally and permanently eradicated. The more people peacefully call attention and take peaceful action to eliminate this problem the better chance it might be addressed by those who collectively have the power to make positive changes in our country.

Thank God the owners have spoken out and locked arms with players and NFL commissioner Roger Godell has cited Trump’s disrespect of the NFL for making such scurrilous statements.

Thank God more players, coaches and fans have joined these efforts by voicing their concerns.

Sports is a metaphor for life. What occurs off the field also affects directly or indirectly what happens on the field.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,”said Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We cannot prevent every injustice but we should never fail to protest it,” said Elie Wiesel.

Remember the acronym and meaning of T.E.A.M; “together everyone achieves more.”

Having said this, I believe Colin Kaepernick and other athletes and sports commentators including Jamelle Hill deserve our support as true Americans.

They also warrant our support because they have exercised their rights as conscientious Americans through the practice of non-violence which is the most humane way of effecting true positive change in America.

Also President Trump should understand that they also should be affirmed because they are true Americans and they too are really, really “really fine people” and not S.O.B’s  who deserve to be fired for their actions.


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