Kaepernick takes a seat: Patriotism in Sports

On August 14, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in a silent protest for the treatment of black people in the Unites States. He sat again during the anthem on August 20, the second game of the season. He didn’t receive attention or ridicule from the media until August 26 for sitting during the anthem while dressed in uniform.

Kaepernick’s quiet, but public refusal to stand during the National Anthem calls into question the relationship between sports and patriotism. Since his kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner, many have found him unpatriotic and disrespectful to the men and women who serve and have served in the United States military, while others have found his actions ‘very admirable.’

According to author of the book “Star-Spangled Banner” Marc Ferris, the first documented playing of the Star-Spangled Banner was in 1862 in Brooklyn. Because hiring a band was too expensive, the song wasn’t easily played at events until the 1930s when sound systems were invented. However, many football teams felt playing the song regularly made its impact less significant.

At Fenway Park in 1918, the Cubs realized the impact the song had on the crowd and the spirit of the game. The front office had the band play the song during the seventh inning stretch, then at pregame events, according to ESPN. Many players in major league baseball had served in the military, along with the veterans and members in active-duty who sat in the stands.  Since then, the standing up and singing the anthem became a national tradition.

However, the NFL does not require players to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner. According to the NFL, they encourage it.

Some have found Kaepernick’s actions unpatriotic and disrespectful. On August 29, Congressman Lee Zeldin tweeted:

#Kaepernick should think about the service members risking their lives to protect his freedom to be both rich and unpatriotic in NFL #USA

In addition, the quarterback has received death threats. According to CNN, the threats have come from different sources including social media. However, Kaepernick is aware and understands the reasons he is receiving these threats.

“There's a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country. And people don't like to address that. And they don't like to address what the root of this protest is," he told CNN.

Although some are disgruntled by Kaepernick’s thoughts and actions, others have voiced their respect for his protest. On September 5, President Obama remarked on Kaepernick, explaining that he was exercising his constitutional right to kneel, according to USA Today.

"When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past," President Obama said.

President Obama also mentioned that Kaepernick’s goal was to give attention and create a national conversation about the issues at hand.  If that is true, his goal was achieved.