Colin Kaepernick, along with other athletes, has recently made headlines because of his decision to sit or kneel during the national anthem. Kaepernick made the controversial decision to protest what he deems as the mistreatment of and biases against African Americans and other minorities in the United States. It seems as if the responses to Kaepernick’s actions are polar opposites. On one hand, people support his decision to protest and on the other hand, people see Kaepernick as a traitor to the American image.
To understand why Kaepernick made his decision, it is important to look at the source of his frustrations. He, along with many other Americans, is tired of seeing our over-militarized police gunning down unarmed men in the street and only being punished with administrative leave or charged with a crime less severe than second-degree murder. He, along with many other Americans, is tired of hearing politicians speak about minorities as if they are a different breed of human.
Usually the immediate aftermath of these events involves groups gathering in inner cities to protest, riot, burn and loot businesses. Modern conservative groups are quick to point the finger at movements like Black Lives Matter and complain that they are the problem source because they are not protesting peacefully.
Kaepernick could have involved himself in the numerous inner-city riots this year, or peacefully protested by burning an American flag, but instead he chose peacefully to sit during the playing of the national anthem during a football game. The conservatives that become angry when they see Black Lives Matter and ask them to protest more peacefully are the same group that becomes angry when Kaepernick protested peacefully just like they asked.
These conservative groups of people fail to realize that Kaepernick has rights, and that the problem with this situation is not Kaepernick’s protests, nor the ideas behind Black Lives Matter, but the over militarization of the police and how they are not held to the same standards as regular citizens in the eyes of criminal justice.
In the United States, citizens have the right to protest peacefully and to speak freely. Kaepernick is expressing both of those rights. Yes, he can leave the United States anytime he wants if he does not like it, but he still has the right to protest while he is here. And no, he is not disrespecting the brave men and women who have served because those men and women fought for his right to protest. If Kaepernick and many other athletes feel minorities are being mistreated, then they have every right to protest until they see fit.
Freedom of speech also includes that which is against the government, or that which is considered to be unpatriotic. Desecrating the American flag as a showing of anger toward the United States or the government is included in freedom of speech. This was decided by the Supreme Court in the case Texas v. Johnson (1989).
Just because an expression is offensive to patriotic groups of people does not mean the expressing group should be silenced. This is why citizens have the right to sit during the national anthem and to disrespect the American flag. It is important to note that it is a right to disagree with Kaepernick and his actions. However, it is not a right to silence his free speech.
When it comes to hanging Gadsden and Confederate flags, some conservatives are quick to the argument that they are just flags and it does not matter if they offend you. The American flag is like the Gadsden and Confederate flag in the sense that it is just a flag. Men have fought, died and been wrongfully abused under all three flags. Citizens have the right to express ideas through all three flags whether they are hanging them or burning them.
If it angers you seeing American citizens not standing for the national anthem, burning and stomping on American flags, and peacefully protesting against our police system, then you do not believe in freedom of speech, only freedom of speech that agrees with your beliefs. Colin Kaepernick, like any other person in the United States, has the right to kneel during the playing of the national anthem.