You read it right: I, an older, patriotic, God-fearing white guy, am saying “Thank you” to Colin Kaepernick. Yes, that Colin Kaepernick – the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback best known not for his on-field accomplishments (overall record as a starter: 28-30), but for his very controversial refusal to stand for the National Anthem before games.
In case you’ve forgotten, Kaepernick was the first NFL player to sit, then kneel, for the Anthem as a sign of protest over alleged police brutality and other forms of unfair treatment of African Americans and other minorities. His doing so has inspired dozens of other pro football players and a lesser amount of other athletes to follow his example.
“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 said in an interview after the first game in which he refused to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner.”
He continued, “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.”
So why, you are wondering, am I thanking this athlete who shows such disrespect for our flag, our National Anthem, and in fact the whole country? A man who has become a multi-millionaire, part of the much resented “one percent” (he has earned a reported $40 million … so far) by virtue of the fact that he is really good at throwing and running with a leather spheroid, which would not have been possible in any other country?
I’m glad you asked.
Full disclosure: I’m not the world’s biggest pro football fan. (I follow the Dolphins … as long as I can … until I reach the threshold of pain … usually about midway through the 2nd quarter.) Beyond that I can pretty much take it or leave it, which makes me part of the one percent, too – the one percent of American males who don’t think of Sunday as the day God created so two-legged behemoths can put on armor and crash violently into one another trying to move the aforementioned leather spheroid up and down a gridiron. I’m not anti-football, either: they’re grown men playing a game they love, and for which they get paid enormous sums of money. God bless America. I’m just not a rabid, “Must. Watch. Every. Game. Every. Sunday.” guy.
That’s where Mr. Kaepernick comes in, and why I’m thankful for him.
I will stipulate that reasonable people can and do disagree – vehemently – over whether or not refusing to stand for the Anthem is a legitimate means of protest. I have friends on both sides of the debate. My purpose here is not to address the legitimacy or lack thereof of Kaepernick’s protest. I simply want to express my appreciation to him and all the others who’ve followed in his footsteps for inadvertently causing many Americans to re-think their slavish devotion to the NFL, and for reminding millions more that there might be more to Sundays than staring at the screen watching five hours of pre-game coverage, three hours of the actual game, and four more hours of post-game analysis.
You know who you are.
If this is what it took to make some of us reconsider our religious-like zealotry for this sport, to remember there are other things you can do on Sundays, then I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Colin Kaepernick and all the others who’ve followed his lead.
And to everyone who is offended by their refusal to participate in what you consider a sacred tradition, by engaging in what you think of as nothing but ungrateful, illegitimate disrespect for the flag and country you love … imagine what God thinks of those who disrespect Him Sunday after Sunday by their refusal to participate in what He considers a sacred duty.
I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the Sabbath was made for worship, to honor God Almighty. It is for rest and recreation, yes, but first and foremost to worship a holy God.
So thank you, Colin Kaepernick. Thanks for unintentionally providing a nice, big opportunity for us to rethink our priorities.
You want to kneel? I have a suggestion:
I understand you are a professing Christian. Great. Take a knee this Sunday in a house of worship out of respect for the God who created all men equal, and endowed us with the rights to life, liberty – including the freedom to protest – and the pursuit of happiness. On or off the football field. Encourage all the others who have followed your example to do it in this way, too.
And to all who are offended by his lack of respect for your flag and country, I have a suggestion for you as well:
This Sunday, show your respect to the God who gave you this incredible country by showing up in your local church. Bow your knees, and your heart and soul, in His presence. Then endeavor by His grace to live your life the rest of the week in such a way that it reflects that gratitude and humility.
You will never stand so tall.