The Kneel Felt Around the Nation
Kaapernick and the never-ending kneeling controversy.
politics, sports, nonfiction
March 27, 2017


It’s March. Why is the Kaepernick kneeling story in the news right now? And again? Well, it’s a time of trading and deal-making for the NFL. Apparently, past actions are affecting current choices. Suppose that makes sense.

I didn’t really say much last season about all this hubbub. Difficult to know exactly what to say. But I’ve read the articles and seen the coverage. I suppose like any other football fan, I do have formulated my own opinion on the matter, which is this:

Is he breaking the law? No.
Is he even breaking an NFL rule? No.

Then all is well. Move on.

Certainly, it’s arguable that rule or not, it’s disrespectful to sit during a time traditionally established as when one stands to honor and respect one’s nation. And yes, far too many have died to provide us with those kinds of free choices. But here’s the thing: if people sacrificed lives so men and women are allowed choices, but then we say, “You may not actually make that choice,” there’s a huge fault in our logic.

America is a great nation, though yes, far from perfect. I believe we’ve come a long way in the past 175 years or so, yet we still have areas in need of improvement. And outside of the news, I myself don’t truly witness how things are in other parts of the country. I would agree that the Bay Area is likely in a better place today than other counties are.

In effect, it’s something I just like to avoid passing judgment on. I don’t have even a clue what he has to go through, despite his celebrity sportsman status or the increased riches. I’ll never have to be subject to or deal with what someone of a diverse ethnicity goes through. I do have friends with various backgrounds and if I heard them tell stories of being treated unfairly or ostracized due to their race, I would be angry and upset by that--and disappointed in some of the ways we have not progressed enough over time.

If Kaepernick feels that kneeling is (or was, if it’s all over with now) his best way to demonstrate that he’s unhappy with the lack of progress in society, then I won’t call him names for it. And really, it’s hard to find a more peaceful way to protest. He didn’t riot, incite riot, or hurt anyone. He knelt down. If protests must occur, we really should want them all to be this passive. Kneel and invite discussion.

(The one thing I did take issue with was his less than kind comments on our police force. Yes, there are some rogue individuals out there--just like in any field. Heck, years ago, a postal worker did some violent acts, but we don’t go around slamming the postal force. Though the police force is in a high level of trust, so it’s alarming and frustrating when abuse happens. It also happens that on occasion a teacher may abuse a student; I would not advise we all start putting down our educators due to some bad apples in the barrel. But yes, in all cases, there should be equal justice when the system fails to evaluate and prosecute any agents of crime. And if one believe that it’s just not happening that way, then one is incited to try and help fix that--which can make people sometimes forget about those officers who honorably protect and serve and risk their lives daily so that we all may be safe.)

One military man who was interviewed said he had no problem with Colin kneeling and that he hoped we could keep working on our issues in America until Kaepernick felt he could stand up with everyone else again. Easy to agree with this. In fact, the only issue I would have with kneeling to the anthem and saying that one doesn’t feel a part of the nation is that I wouldn’t want people separating themselves or disengaging due to that feeling. In other words, this nation belongs to everyone regardless of his or her race. If you’re a citizen, you’ve earned your rights. Don’t back away from the system, but guide it into the direction you feel it should go. It’s not my country; it’s our country. Unless you actually renounce your citizenship, that flag belongs to you--warts and all.

But again, we each do what we feel is most effective. I won’t disparage his methods simply because I would choose a different course of action. It’s helpful to remember that during the Vietnam War, many former military members would publicly denounce the war and throw away their medals. I don’t believe I would have taken the same course of action there either, but friends, I wasn’t in the war. I didn’t face what they faced on a daily basis. I only know that our forefathers wanted to provide the kind of freedom that allowed us such choices without recourse. In some countries, not standing for the anthem can mean jail time--and this is in modern day. The founding fathers wanted to provide a different way.

Still, did all the kneeling help? Hard to say. It certainly got people talking, though perhaps it divided others. It riled up many tempers--that much is clear. Though oddly, people seem okay with the hand over the heart being an option, or hats. I even see hats on heads these days. Guess traditions do vary for some people.

So he may have felt that it was all worth an attempt, that action should be taken and kneeling was the best method--whether it succeeded in making a difference or not (something very hard to quantify). Maybe other avenues would have been more effective and incurred less hate. Could be. Though I can’t think of exactly what.

My bottom line is that I don’t think kneeling during the anthem is the best solution; however, I won’t fault or bad mouth someone that does. I think if the camera crews and commentators didn’t obsess over it, the American public (and football fans) wouldn’t make a huge issue of it either. Just stop zooming in to the matter. Personally, I want to watch just football when I turn on the games. I know where to find all the ancillary stuff.

But okay, back to the current NFL trade situation. The speculation by some is that teams won’t sign on Kaep only because of last year’s baggage. It’s hard to believe that. I mean, in the NFL, “winning isn’t everything - it’s the only thing” (- V. Lombardi). Teams will overlook players who rape, shoot, abuse, and commit all sorts of crimes. In general, if you’re not in jail for murder, then a team will overlook just about anything.

Provided you can still play well.

Again that whole thing about “winning.”

But didn’t he play well last season? Statistically, he did fairly well. The wins weren’t there, but a weak defense could be attributed to that. If you’re not getting the Ws, teams have to determine if you will get better or get worse. In general, due to the high physical demand of football, time usually makes a person worse. (Well, time and getting hit by 330-pound linemen.)

Teams also evaluate if an athlete can be a team-player and display leadership around him. (In the NFL the offensive captain is nearly always the quarterback.) This could be a factor, though supposedly, many 49er players were okay with his pre-game choices and could still play effectively with Colin.

So it’s a bit of quandary at the moment. Is he truly done with football? Doubtful. It does seem like he should be taken by a team, and maybe he will be soon. Fan support may be weak at first, but win a few games and everyone is suddenly your biggest fan (“...the only thing.”) This isn’t to say one’s patriotism is fickle; it’s that people may choose to view last year’s situation as simply a person actually exercising his right to freedom--something our country does pretty darn well at providing.

And for me, that’s a though thing to argue against.