San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is generating headlines with his refusal to stand during the national anthem at football games. He explained his decision to reporters: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
He later added: “This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.” Response from NFL players and fans has been as varied as you’d expect, some voicing support for his position and others protesting vehemently.
Let’s begin with the obvious: Kaepernick has the right to stand or sit when the national anthem is played. He also has the right to express his views on our national challenges regarding racism, violence, and poverty. And it’s tragically clear that America has not yet achieved the racial and economic equality we should all seek for our country.
However, I disagree with the way Kaepernick has expressed his convictions, for two reasons.
One: He is wrong to redefine the meaning of the flag.
Kaepernick claims that the American flag represents justice and that so long as oppression remains, he will sit while the flag is honored. That may be what it means to him, but it’s not what the flag means to the vast majority of Americans.
To most of us, our flag represents freedom and those who have died in its defense. While Kaepernick has expressed his gratitude for the military, he should know that many see his actions as disrespecting the people who have died for our country. The anthem Kaepernick refuses to honor calls America “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This is the land of the free precisely because it is the home of the brave.
I am the son and grandson of military veterans who chose to risk their lives in defense of our freedom. I freely acknowledge today a debt to our military and police officers I cannot repay. Most Americans feel the same way.
Two: He should be the change he wants to see.
Kaepernick is guaranteed to make $11.9 million this year, part of his $126 million, six-year contract. Some are saying that his wealth disqualifies him to speak on poverty, a claim with which I disagree. However, his affluence does open him to charges of hypocrisy if he is not working personally to help those in need.
He has reportedly been generous to children with heart disease, but I could find nothing online to indicate that he has been involved in efforts to help impoverished people. If he wants to work for justice and relieve oppression, he should find practical ways to model such worthy service. Then we would not be debating his patriotism but following his example.
Whether you agree or disagree with Colin Kaepernick, here’s the practical question: How will you use your influence for good? God has given you a Kingdom assignment. He is calling you to make a positive difference with significant, lasting outcomes.
Jesus chose “not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). We should do the same.