By Sam Krueger
There is a massive disconnect between the American public about what Colin Kaepernick’s protest means.
Let me get two things out of the way. First, Kaepernick absolutely has a right to express himself the way he has. Few people disagree about this. Second, he has accomplished his goal, as long as his goal was to do everything but draw sympathy towards his cause.
A Reuters poll taken months after the start of the protest shows that 72 percent of Americans think that his method of protest is unpatriotic while 61 percent said they do not agree with his movement. In addition, support for the Black Lives Matter movement, an organization that aligns with his views, has actually decreased in the year following his first protest. Surveys show that almost 60 percent of Americans now view the movement unfavorably. Multiple polls conducted and analyzed by Fivethirtyeight in 2017 show similar results.
Even more polls show that the country overwhelmingly disliked Nike’s stunt. Their favorability amongst all major American demographics has fallen considerably. Their market value has also plummeted by billions of dollars.
Most Americans view Kaepernick’s protest as disrespectful.
The outrage for many is justified and it has nothing to do with his right to protest.
If someone burns the American flag in protest, I say that that person has a right to do it, but that doesn’t make them any less of a disgrace.
To many Americans, this is a big middle finger to what they identify as the most. To them, Kaepernick’s protest, with his justification, is the equivalent of flicking someone off and saying, “Oh, don’t worry, I actually like you, I just don’t like certain parts of you.” The intention may be specific but the insult is broad, and for many, this has become personal.
It doesn’t matter what you think your protest is about, sitting for the national anthem while able bodied is disrespectful. His subject of protest, or his intentions, do not negate that fact. The offense need not be intended, but it is still projected.
In the end, this is not a situation that ends in consensus. It could, however, end in mutual understanding. If people are willing to listen to one another and accept, rather than reject the reality of this protest, maybe people will be able to peacefully deal with it and our country can simply move on.
Sam, I would like to add my thoughts as attached below in a short formal piece I weote
On Bended Knee
In response to President Trump’s recent condemnation of professional football players taking a knee of protest during some of this season’s exhibition games, perhaps a reprise of my column of last year is appropriate, as the symbolic issues undergirding this conflict are not likely to abate anytime soon.
I am not a football fan, but my interest was aroused by Trump’s flare-up over the national anthem non-issue amidst a hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico, a more than likely US repudiation of the nuclear agreement of Iran, an intensifying war prospect with North Korea, and a contentious senatorial debate on the latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Prior to Trump’s self-serving outburst, I knew that Colin Kaepernick took to the posture of kneeling in playing of the national anthem in protest of mostly black males unjustly shot and killed by mainly white police officers, with rare exception, without legal consequences. After the president’s, difficult to miss, vulgarly obscene, racially inspired dog whistle in the heartland of Old Dixie, I learned that Kaepernick is a seriously committed Christian who has used his influence and donated his time and money for a variety important causes within the US and abroad, including a $50,000 donation to Meals on Wheels.
For all the kerfuffle of allegedly desecrating a potent national symbol, Kaepernick’s protest needs to be viewed within the specific context of the Civil Rights inspired African American tradition of non-violent resistance to the social evil of endemic racism—a symbolic act with historical echoes extending back to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus some 60 years ago. It is within this framework that Kaepernick’s bended knee represents, in Mr. K’s words, a powerful protest against “a country that [continues] to oppress black people and people of color” 150 years after the abolition of slavery and 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement—a protest that for him draws on the Christian imagery of the Sermon on the Mount symbolized in the very posture he has taken to express his sorrow: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). As did MLK Jr. in his symbolic rhetoric, Kaepernick, by his symbolic action, echoed the call of his savior to “heal the broken hearted” and to “proclaim liberty to the captives” in order to “set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
As a Caucasian, I lack the experiential capacity to fully enter the depth of that which Kaepernick channeled: the profound suffering and injustice that the African American community has endured in this land for almost 400 years. Still, I know enough about history, politics and culture and possess sufficient personal awareness to grasp something of how the recent killings of mostly black males by mainly white police officers evoke a long legacy of fear, sorrow, outrage, and the call for solidarity among both the African American community and others of all races who desire to join with them in their struggle for an ever elusive, always aspirational equality, which, at its best, speaks to this nation’s better angels.
In the words of the Jewish prophet, “justice [has not yet] run down like water. Righteousness [does not yet flow] like a mighty stream” (Amos, 5:24) for the African American community in this great land in our times. With the recent killings of black youth and adults by police officers and the pernicious Shelby County vs Holder Supreme Court case, which gutted two key sections of the Voting Right Act of 1965, it is easy to draw the more than reasonable conclusion that justice has moved backward in recent times from the high-water mark of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In the light of this more recent history, processed through the cumulative impact of two centuries of slavery, a century of Jim Crow segregationist laws in the South, and a long history of de facto segregation in housing and employment in the North, one can begin to appreciate Kaepernick’s principled protest—even more so given the persistent, subtler forms of racism characteristic of much of this nation’s political culture.
The Preamble to the Constitution calls upon the people of this great land to form “a more perfect union,” clearly, an aspirational goal that seems closer to realization among certain groups of people than others. This more perfect union will not be secured until the “blessings of liberty” are obtained for all people, including the most oppressed in our society.
One may take a stance toward the national anthem different from Kaepernick’s and even disagree with his principled position, but to dispute his right to take it is to violate this nation’s highest values in quest of freedom and liberty for all. Rather than mandating a spurious patriotism by requiring all to stand at reverent attention to the Star-Spangled Banner, how preferable it would be if our President encouraged us to collectively work toward that more perfect union as an ongoing project of national identity fulfillment. In that day—one that always calls us to our better selves—it could then be said that America fulfills its national destiny—one rooted in the inspiring imagery of our nation’s founding documents, one that Lincoln—however imperfectly—brought to life in his generation, one which calls upon us to enact in ours. I believe Mr. Kaepernick’s principled protest, which has cost him much, is deeply rooted in this patriotic aspiration.