Football, Flags and Civic Duty

“Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…” There is something profoundly stirring as the music begins to play and thousands of people rise to their feet simultaneously and begin to sing, many with their hand across their heart, eyes pinned on the American flag. It is the Star Spangled Banner, America’s anthem — it makes us cheer, it can make us solemn, and it can even choke us up, depending on the occasion.

So it isn’t particularly surprising that San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football games garnered attention.

And while our flag represents freedom to the world, it is, in the end, a symbol of the country that is known as “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. And because we are the land of the free, thanks in large part to the brave, it is this freedom we enjoy and that people in other countries long for, that allows the young quarterback to protest in this manner.

Just as the Supreme Court determined that flag burning was protected under the First Amendment’s free speech clause, so too is Kaepernick’s decision not to stand. And I was on his side, defending him, until he announced to the media that he didn’t vote on November 8th.

Colin, you blew it. You can’t complain about the system and protest it as a way to bring about change and then not participate by voting - for the right to vote, like the flag, is a symbol of our freedom. How do you expect change to happen if you don’t participate? You have an audience, and you were working it but you threw your credibility out the window, at least in my book, with your failure to vote. Change comes when we participate in our democracy — and voting is one of the most direct ways, we, the people, have a chance to change the system. Refusing to stand sends a message but not voting — failing to actually participate in our democracy — that sends the wrong message, especially to young people who look up to NFL players.

You want to make a real difference Colin — take action — keep kneeling if you must, but please find something more active, more participatory — speak to America’s young people, convene a group to discuss the problems we face and put forth new ideas — your job gives you a bully pulpit, do something with it!

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