Sunday, September 11, 2016

9-11, Colin Kaepernick, Football, and Patriotism Versus Nationalism

Colin Kaepernick wearing the hat of his team, The San Francisco 49ers
It's September 11th, 2016. Fifteen years since that tragic day in 2001 and I want to talk about patriotism and sports, two things often associated with one another. I don't follow sports much, but certain events in Football have grabbed my attention, however.

You may be able to tell I'm not a huge sports-fan because the only sport I've ever expressed much interest in is Hockey (there is something about the weird mixture of graceful skating and brutal fighting that has fascinated me) and for some time I followed the New York Jets because they used my Undergraduate Alma mater as Summer-training camp and if they did well it helped with tourism in the town. That said, even if I don't much keep my eye on the actual details of sporting-related games, with my interests in popular-culture I do try to stay tuned to noteworthy things going on in sports. Unless you're currently living under a rock in regards to sports and/or culture you've probably heard about Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. You also probably have an opinion, because damn near everyone (myself included) does.
For a number of NFL preseason games a Quarterback named Colin Kaepernick chose to stay seated during the National Anthem. Absolutely nobody noticed at first because watching a preseason Football game is like watching the opening plot in a pornographic movie--whatever happens is pointless in regards to when the real action begins at the start of the true season/the people on your T.V. screen get naked. Then someone actually noticed what Kaepernick was doing and asked what the deal was. He honestly answered he could not stand for the anthem in a country where people with his skin color are systematically persecuted and murdered by the police. Some people said he was doing it to disrespect the military and he clarified he has the utmost respect for our men and women who serve our nation, and feels that the mistreatment they receive upon coming home is further proof of why he should protest. They fought and died for his right to not be forced to stand during the National Anthem. As some people have pointed-out, if they want to live in a country where you have to stand-up and honor your country, North Korea is a prime example of where that's a law.

One big thing I've heard said about Colin Kaepernick is that he isn't Patriotic and must hate our country. This is false, Kaepernick is not Nationalistic, but he is Patriotic. Patriotism is being proud of your country, willing to defend what it stands for, and wanting to work to improve it. Nationalism is thinking your country is perfect and must be supported blindly. Living in a country where you can choose not to stand for the National Anthem and choosing to stay seated as a form of protest against things in your country you disprove of is a clear sign of Patriotism--it just isn't the poisonous thing known as Nationalism.
The NFL knows this is a lose-lose situation if they take any dramatic action, so they've wisely been pretty quiet and said players can express themselves however they like. Plus, really, plenty of players have gotten away with doing terrible things as long as they win. If you're a Football player you can quite likely be a rapist, be a wife-abuser, or a myriad of other things, but as long as you don't commit murder or make dogs fight--and win games--all is forgiven. If you suck at playing though it won't take long for everyone to turn on you.

Colin Kaepernick has made many people angry, but is getting more and more support too. What makes me angry is how a bunch of people were saying if he cared so much he would donate money to the communities he speaks about, and once he started putting his money where his mouth is those same people started saying he was just doing it to look good. Clearly some people are always going to be mad if Black athlete dare have an opinion and not just, "Run and throw the ball like a good boy," as I actually have seen posted online.
As the actual season starts with more and more players in various sports expressing support for Colin Kaepernick it will be interesting to see how this impacts Football a well as other sports, their players, and everyone's endorsement-deals. The first, "Real," game for the 49ers starts tomorrow, September 12th. Games today have already seen players kneeling and sitting during the National Anthem. It has been a decade-and-a-half since the horrific events of 9/11, and I still remember things with an uncomfortable clarity (I was in eighth-grade English class). The blind Nationalism that sprouted from that event and which has been used as an excuse to persecute others is a prime example of why people exercising their Patriotic right to protest is more important now than ever.

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