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Colin Kaepernick: When Not Standing Really Means Taking a Bigger Stand

[Opinion] The San Francisco 49ers quarterback's refusal to stand during the national anthem has a deeper meaning than what is apparent

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49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick answers questions at a news conference after an NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. AP / Ben Margot

Be careful what you wish for or you just might get it.

We live in a social climate where freedom of speech is halfheartedly encouraged. Its perfectly fine to say what you feel, so long as you don’t ruffle too many feathers in the process. For years the public has clamored for politicians to be more honest, more transparent. Be careful what you wish for. Enter Donald Trump.



For years the public has urged athletes to be more outspoken and take a stand on issues of social injustice. Be careful what you wish for.
Enter San Fransisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick took a stand on Friday night before his team’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers by not standing during the singing of the national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told members of the media when asked about his actions. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” said Kaepernick.


For those who have followed Kaepernick’s career you know that he’s been anything but conventional. From his style of play to his style of clothes, he has always been an intriguing figure to cover. When he came into the league his athletic talent and breakaway speed, combined with a strong arm made him a dangerous player. He enjoyed success early and often, even leading the ‘Niners to Superbowl XLVII.

But they lost that championship game. Then Kaepernick began to struggle on the field, and as he began to struggle on the field people began to struggle with Kaepernick off the field. He was too authentic for people, as his post game attire, his earrings and fitted hat worn backwards was too much for some people to digest.

Even the NFL took issue with him for sporting Beats by Dre headphones while talking to members of the media after a game, fining him $10,000 for that little stunt.

Kaepernick has a history of going against the grain. He’s never been a conventional quarterback and he most certainly doesn’t have a conventional background. A biracial man who grew up with adopted white parents, Kaepernick had the advantage of seeing the world from two different vantage points. From the side of the oppressor side and the side of the oppressed. Who are we to judge him because he identifies more with the oppressed side?

It took a lot of courage for Kaepernick to do what he did on Friday seeing as how you open yourself up to even more non-football related scrutiny. In the midst of a battle to become the team’s starting quarterback with (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Blaine Gabbert, his job security is all but certain. One would think it’d be in his best interest to stay out of the spotlight.

The Twitter snapshot image of him sitting alone on the bench is synonymous with individuals who challenge the status quo and speak out on not so popular issues. They’re often out there all alone, left to defend themselves and their position against the ruthless onslaught of social media agitators.

In his teammates defense, Kaepernick did admit that he did not tell them about what he planned to do nor did he feel obligated to. Some players around the NFL have expressed understanding, while others have expressed that he should have paid respect to the flag despite personal beliefs.

The Niners organization issued a statement saying they support his decision to exercise his freedom.

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem,” said the 49ers organization. However, despite their outward public support of Kaepernick, we don’t know what kind of residual effect this can have on his career.

Think about it: who wants to sign a mediocre at best quarterback who is viewed as unpatriotic?

The NFL released their predictable, yet timely PR statement saying,

“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

Kaepernick’s on the field performance coupled with his decision might have just lost him the quarterback battle. It might have even lost him fans and supporters. We’ll have to wait and see. But he won an even bigger battle he’s possibly been having his entire life.

Malcolm X once said, “A person who stands for nothing, will fall for anything.”

And although Kaepernick chose to not stand during the singing of the national anthem, in actuality he took a much deeper stand that will reverberate throughout this country. He showed that athletes are not just motivated by their millions, but rather they’re capable of having real thoughts and real feelings.

So the next time you’re on Twitter or watching television and you find yourself petitioning for a celebrity, or a politician or an athlete to speak up and say something, I implore you to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

But it might not be what you expect.


Marcus Lamar is a New York-based sports journalist. You can check out his podcast “Marc My Words” on Soundcloud, YouTube and coming to iTunes soon. Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.





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