The Colin Kaepernick story is still gaining momentum, despite having first appeared last Friday. As with every news story, millions take to Twitter in order to have their perspective tossed out into the fray. There are some reactions from those who are appalled by Kap’s actions, demonstrating their almost palpable disbelief in the quarterback’s decision to dishonor the American flag. Forgive me for the upcoming history lesson but, the military so closely associated with the flag have not always been so kind to African Americans…
Discrimination was so frequent and harsh during the Spanish American War that many African Americans defected from the U.S Military to the Philippine forces. During World War I, minorities of all types were thrown into the most dangerous of battles in place of white troops who weren’t deemed “ready” by General Pershing. Also during this war, minorities were largely deployed as nothing more than cooks and a means to manual labor. World War II handed out exactly zero Medals of Honor to African Americans. Zero. There was also that one time the American South fought a war to try and keep African Americans as slaves. If I recall correctly, General Lee is still honored as one of the finest American soldiers of all time. Yes, the Napoleon of the South is revered by military historians and Americans alike despite his contributions towards the continuation of slavery.
This piece however, is not intended to highlight the hypocrisy which exists within the American military and the flag that has somehow come to symbolize it. The central figure of this piece is Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews. Matthews had this to tweet about Kap’s antics:
“Come on bro this is the land of the Free BECAUSE of the Brave that’s what our Flag represents.”
This sentiment, along with other similar expressions, is incredibly exaggerated. Other professional football players and journalists have claimed that it is because of Americans soldiers that Kap gets to play football for millions of dollars. Ben Roethlisberger went on Mike & Mike this morning and relayed that exact message. There are just so many wrong assumptions included within that thought. Does Big Ben think our military is constantly fighting off a hybrid form of commy/terrorists who want nothing more than to eliminate the game of football? Out of nearly 200 countries in the world, ISIS is the only major threat to America right now. Guess what, I am pretty sure that their doctrine doesn’t say “stop Americans from throwing the pigskin.” It’s hard to imagine a soldier upon realizing they have suffered a mortal wound saying: “At least Sunday’s will be for football.” The connection between football and soldiers is nonexistent. One group of people attempt to move a piece of leather 100 yards until it crosses a white line which grants them 6 imaginary points. The other group protects American rights by removing all those who threaten them. Football players suit up for the entertainment of soldiers, of this I am sure. Soldiers do not suit up so football players can continue to bash their own heads in.
Perhaps Matthews is making some more grandiose point concerning the right to grow up and be whoever you want to be? That could be accurate, sure. Maybe Matthews was attempting to say that soldiers protect our freedom to choose any career we want. I can agree with that. Still, picture a worst-case scenario for our American future. Let’s say that some terrorist group does successfully take over the country. Is football going anywhere? Hell no. Fidel Castro was a ruthless dictator. His country was still allowed to play baseball and smack homers into the Atlantic. Take a breath, NFL players. Your sport isn’t going anywhere and the right to pursue a dream of playing football isn’t either. Calm down.
American soldiers fight to defend our rights against all those attempting to take them. Kap expressed this right when he sat down during the national anthem. Furthermore, he made it clear he was protesting against racial oppression in American society; a noble cause. I’m perfectly fine with his actions. Even if Kap wanted to protest against the military, I am okay with that too. He has that right. Some choose to respect our military because they helped keep defeat Nazis. Others remember the time they trained rebel soldiers in Nicaragua to stab pregnant women in the stomach and cut out their unborn child right in front of them. The fact is our military history is as honorable and plagued as our racial history. Take a good look at the flag and ask yourself this one question:
“Does the flag truly represent America, or does it represent how you like to perceive America?”
We know Kap’s answer, and it was the hard one to make. Respect it.
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