On Kaepernick, policing, patriotism and willfully ignoring the message behind the act.

My faithful readers will recall my thoughts that I felt as if “America has slipped into an alternate universe.” Well, I’m still waiting on the Avengers to fix this and so far neither Cap nor T’Challa have appeared to save the day. Yes I’ve finally accepted that we are stuck with this, a year in which we question whether Hispanic Americans are “rapists and criminals” while trying our hardest to collectively ignore elephants in the room like police brutality and racism.

It’s a beast that San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick could no longer ignore, citing both as reasons why he chose to remain seated recently during the national anthem. Since then, predictable controversy has ensued, drawing everyone from veterans to law enforcement into the fray. Reviews of his stance have been mixed, gathering both praise, scorn and even blatant racism with slurs being hurled at him via Social Media.

Then there’s the San Francisco Police Department, whose union demanded an apology while offering none of their own for employing the officers that were caught texting about the very citizens they took an oath to protect and serve; calling Hispanics “beaners” and referring to Blacks as “savages” and “n*ggers.” As someone that truly believes that police officers and emergency personnel have a near thankless job, it makes me even more adamant that those disrespecting the badge should have it removed.

“This is not Harry Potter & Kaepernick is not a bifocals wearing wizard with an invisibility cloak.”

Others have employed not so subtle digs at his upbringing by questioning “how was he oppressed” when in fact he was adopted and raised by a white family. For the record, “being adopted by a white family” is not the equivalent of hitting the lottery, but it does prove that denying the existence of white privilege doesn’t mean that it’s not implied. His brown skin doesn’t suddenly disappear while in the presence of those fairer than him. This is not Harry Potter and Kaepernick is not a bifocals wearing wizard with an invisibility cloak. Being Black is the first (and only) thing that some will see when looking at him, no matter how many TDs he throws or the amount of money left in his bank account.

Before this week many of us couldn’t tell you why we recite the national anthem, outside of the common explanation of a display of patriotism. But what exactly defines being a “true patriot?” Being a member of the military? Or is it as simple singing your heart out during any rendition of “America the Beautiful?”

For many minorities it’s a loaded question that requires walking a fine.  On one hand, there’s the incessant demand to display loyalty to America, land of the free and home of the brave. On the other there’s American history, which hasn’t always been kind to the minorities that helped build this nation.

“…an ironic insistence to publicly denounce the former 49ers Golden Boy.”

Penned by Francis Scott Key, our national anthem includes his disdain for “the hireling and slave,” a reference to the slaves that defected to aid the British against a then fledgling United States. In 1931 Congress and President Herbert Hoover designated it as the official song of the land; but it hasn’t always been celebrated. As baseball legend Jackie Robinson explained in his biography, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

While some perceived Kaepernick’s actions as a disrespect to our troops, a portion of veterans have come out in defense of the controversial quarterback, causing the #VeteransForKaepernick hashtag to go viral. For vets like Robinson, who served honorably during World War II, the stark contrast between patriotism and the reality for minority soldiers was apparent on the day that he was court martialed for refusing to sit on a segregated military bus. Like many others during that era, Robinson was good enough to lay his life on the line overseas, but not good enough to sit next to a White soldier from his own country. A little over a decade later, Rosa Parks would take her own stand.

Called everything from “ungrateful” to brutishly bold racial slurs, Kaepernick has ignited a firestorm not seen during controversies surrounding fellow athletes Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Stewart, Tiki Barber and more, despite their ironic insistence to publicly denounce the Niner’s former golden boy.

Even Ryan Lochte, who publicly embarrassed the entire nation during his antics at the Rio Olympics hasn’t inspired the level of animosity seen in recent days. In fact, despite losing a string of major endorsements, we’ll see if he can dance his way back into America’s heart when he appears on the upcoming installment of Dancing With the Stars.

He doesn’t need your approval to be an American.

Meanwhile Kaepernick, whose performance has been lackluster since the Niners loss in Super Bowl XLVIII four seasons ago, faces an uncertain future. While he’s guaranteed the remainder of his salary whether he continues to play or not, his career within the NFL may very well be over.

He may have lost his starting spot, but he’s lost none of his convictions; despite what any of us may think about them. Our military takes an oath to uphold the inalienable rights granted by the constitution, which includes the free speech that he’s decided to invoke.

Whether you agree with him or not; if a presidential candidate can stand up and tell us what needs to be fixed in our nation, then an athlete can do the same by sitting down. Colin doesn’t need your approval to exercise his rights as an American citizen. It was paid years ago by those that truly believed in the notion of liberty and justice, for all.