The National Anthem and Freedom of Speech

colin_kaepernick_in_2013

Colin Kaepernick. Photo credit: Daniel Hartwig.

On August 26th, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the national anthem before a pre-season NFL game. He refused to salute the American flag in a country that he claims “oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick certainly has the right, as an American, to refuse to salute the flag, but I find it wildly disrespectful. It goes against everything this country stands for.

I realize what Kaepernick is fighting for, which is rights for African Americans, but it does not mean he has to use the nation’s symbol to argue his point. I am not disputing the “Black Lives Matter” movement, because the tension in this country between African Americans, whites, and the police is very concerning. I can understand the point that Kaepernick is trying to make. I respect his right as an American to voice his opinion through freedom of speech. However, I do not think that he should use the platform that is the national anthem to try and make his point. He can use his celebrity platform to bring attention to the fact that we need to address the problems of racism in this country. He can use things such as interview time and social media to raise awareness for his beliefs. I do not think he should use the anthem, which stands for freedom and all of the people who fought for freedom, as the way to get his point across. I wonder what my cousin, who served as a fighter pilot in Afghanistan, thinks about what Kaepernick is doing.

russell_wilson_vs_vikings_november_4_2012

Russell Wilson (’07). Photo credit: Larry Maurer.

His actions have spread to other sports teams, both at the professional and high school levels. There was much speculation on what Collegiate’s own Russell Wilson (‘07) was going to do before the first game of the 2016 NFL regular season. Instead of kneeling, his entire Seattle Seahawks football teams locked arms and stood during the national anthem. The gesture was even more important because it was on September 11. By standing together, the Seahawks were showing the world that they will stand together, regardless of race or religion. “We’re trying to build a bridge,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman during a News Tribune interview, “We’re trying to bring people together. We’re trying to help people understand that it’s not just a black problem… It’s everyone’s problem.”

In a Washington Post article on this ongoing issue, USA men’s hockey coach John Tortorella controversially said, “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.” While he is taking away the freedom of speech that is promised to his players, he is trying to tell players that such disrespect will not be tolerated.

On September 9th, at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, many players took a knee behind the end zone during the national anthem. When asked to comment, Coach Chris Fraser told the Virginian Pilot, “We didn’t make an issue of it, and if they believe in a cause, that’s fine. I stand behind what they believe in, but I’m going to do what I believe in.”

I find it unsettling that high school kids who enjoy the freedom of living in the United States are disrespecting the flag before most of them can vote. To me, the national anthem means that we, as Americans, can appreciate how great the country we live in is. I worry that when high school kids decide to kneel before the flag, it will separate the country even more than it already is. The flag and the anthem symbolize what this country stands for and should not be used for an individual’s issue. It is ironic, however, that it is the freedom provided by the flag that allows Kaepernick and all of the individuals mentioned to be able to express themselves in any way they want to.

Editors’ Note: The opinions published by The Match are solely those of the authors, and not of the entire publication or its staff as a whole. The Match welcomes thoughtful commentary and response to our content. You can respond in the comments below, but please do so respectfully. Letters to the Editors will be published, but they are subject to revision based on content and length. Letters can be sent to match@collegiate-va.org.

About the author

Junior at Collegiate School