An Outsiders Perspective on Kaepernick
By Faye Curran
To put us all on the same page, I am writing this as an outsider to everyday American culture. I come from a place where the biggest social insult is to be derogatory towards the royal family.
The military isn’t celebrated as it is here, people are proud of the army but they don’t honor them in the middle of a sports match full of thousands of spectators. Second to this, soccer is our biggest sport and gets the majority of media attention, so any movement started by athlete is mostly done in soccer.
Now this has been established, I can give you a view of what it is like as an outsider to witness this ‘big gesture’ by Colin Kaepernick.
To kneel during the national anthem, to me, is not the worst crime, because to kneel is not the same as picking the flag up and tearing it shreds, or, burning it. When it comes to disrespecting a flag, a kneel is probably the most respectful way to do just that.
So with this in mind, let’s think about kneeling. in England, kneeling is a courtesy. It comes under the same bracket as bowing or giving a curtsey. It is actually a mark of respect to someone. So if you want a juxtaposed protest, I believe the physical form in which Kaepernick’s chosen to protest is really quite the opposite to the effect he should be seeking.
The platform of being a professional footballer comes with a responsibility. If you want to fight for a social justice then you have the perfect amount of attention do so, there is the opportunity to be a role model.
Kaepernick may be distracting himself from football, but if people are concerned that footballers are a little distracted before a game instead of looking at what the issues are that he is fighting, it seems there are some issues they need to address in their moral consciousness.
Is it right to feel safer as a white person when you walk passed a police car? Is it right that you feel comforted or threatened by the color of your own skin? These are questions that have to be answered honestly when you think about them.
Racism and police brutality are such big issues, that to ignore them would be to ignore trying to improve the United States of America. That to me seems like more of a disrespectful act to a country. The denial of improvement and progression for a peaceful and equal society could be construed as ignorant.
The flag has different meanings for different people, this is obvious, but what is the value of freedom of speech if it can’t be exercised? The flag supposedly represents the constitution and the first amendment is exactly that, the freedom of speech, to exercise your opinion. Kapernick is exercising it. However, the flag for others is a humbling and solidifying symbol of hope and unity which people are fighting with their lives to protect.
Soldiers and members of the military are putting their lives on the line to ensure that the American public can walk their streets safely and without threat from outside of the country. This is a huge mark of bravery and for that accumulates huge amounts of respect from people all over the country.
This is where the playing of the national anthem is so crucial, it is the one moment that marks respect for the military and those who fight for this country. Therefore, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to stage this protest at a different time rather than when the respect can be so closely linked to those who fight for the freedom to even be able to play football?
No matter how you view the protest, the conversation which has sparked from Kaepernick is the right one, but, he has press conferences and multiple media days, websites and black armbands that he could wear instead of kneeling.
Freedom of speech can be exercised in a more respectful manner, and for Kaepernick, I think it’s time to shift the protest from the field to the streets. Link arms with team mates and show solidarity, don’t put negative actions to a negative situation, fight the bad with the good and unite, don’t kneel.
Faye Curran is a master’s student at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She completed her undergraduate studies at The University of Birmingham in England. She played field hockey for the Maryland Terrapins.