Dear Colin Kaepernick,
You don’t know me. And, to be honest with you, it’s not like you are someone I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about over the past few years, anyway.
Oh, you once dazzled me — and made me nervous — with your athleticism. As a Notre Dame fan, I was concerned when the Fighting Irish took on your Nevada team early in the 2009 college football season, and then you had me sweating bullets again when my beloved Baltimore Ravens battled your San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season.
But you don’t play for my Ravens, and you aren’t on my radar for my fantasy football team anymore, so I just don’t spend a lot of energy pondering the life and times of Colin Kaepernick.
Your refusal to stand during the national anthem of a preseason football game last weekend brought you back into the public focus. Yes, you apparently decided to do that the first two preseason games of the year, as well, but nobody noticed — probably because they’ve just gotten used to you sitting on the bench.
I’m sorry. That sounded disrespectful. That was never my intention. Just a joke.
But you did intend to be disrespectful with your actions, didn’t you? You purposely went out of your way to irritate and agitate a great many Americans by latching on to the emotions and pageantry of the national anthem, via the stage afforded to you by being a member of the most popular sport in the country.
Pretty clever stuff, Mr. Kaepernick. I have to give it to you. You wanted a forum in which to voice your displeasure, and you got it. Of course, it’s come with a lot of backlash, but you expected that part of it, too, didn’t you? After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, right?
I went online and listened to your answers. I then read statements from you concerning your frustrations, and I have to tell you that you come off as thoughtful and well-meaning with every word you said. It all sounded very genuine, and I have respect for people who voice real concerns with passion and honesty, whether I agree with them or not.
But as long as we’re being open and honest with each other, sir, I got ticked off when I read about what you did.
Of course, I end up getting ticked off every time I find myself standing for our national anthem. I get ticked off at men who stand there under the guise of being respectful with their hats still on their heads, and I get ticked off at people continuing their conversations while some of us are trying to honor that flag and what it represents to so many.
Of course, “so many” is not the same as “all.” I understand that I’ve had different experiences in my life than you have, and I respect that.
There’s that word again: Respect. Some have said that you showed a deplorable lack of respect to active and past members of our armed forces by refusing to stand during the national anthem. Countless brave men and women have given their lives in defense of that flag so you could feel free to voice your displeasure without fear of reprisal from the government. And, look at that — you have been given the opportunity to speak your mind without the threat of being imprisoned, or much worse.
Many of my fellow veterans have begun a hashtag on social media that reads #VeteransForKaepernick. In fact, it was the top trending topic on Twitter Tuesday night as thousands of veterans have rallied to your defense. I’ve gone through many of those mentions on Twitter, and I’ve seen that a great deal of those veterans have said things to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter if we agree with you or not, we will proudly give our lives for you to say it.”
You have the right in this nation to burn a flag, to not stand for our anthem and to insult people who have done nothing to you, but have sacrificed everything for you. My beef with your action isn’t that you made a stand, albeit by sitting.
My problem is that you chose an action that would create more attention than the message you are actually trying to get across, and that it comes off as being beligerant to the people of this nation rather than the government you feel systematically opresses people of color.
So, now, the ball is in your court, Mr. Kaepernick. You got the spotlight you so obviously craved. People are surrounding you with microphones and I’m sure the fine people at TMZ are tracking your every move.
Are you all talk, or are you actually going to do something? It’s easy to identify a problem. It’s harder to find solutions.
I propose that you follow in the footsteps of a few of your fellow NFL players with the Philadelphia Eagles. Apparently, some of them met with the city’s police commissioner to discuss ways in which the players can help “bridge that gap between law enforcement and black communities,” according to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, per the Delaware County Times.
Then go volunteer at inner-city youth organizations, and bring some of your famous football friends with you. Make a difference at the ground level. Help shape the lives of young people facing an uncertain future and give them hope and direction. I believe a big part of the divide in this nation stems from educational and economic inequalities. Provide some guidance to young men and women.
Then meet with your wealthy and influential team owner, tell him you’d like to be involved in social justice and could use his help in getting started. My guess is he will, and will be proud of you for trying. You actually get to work, instead of just talking or sitting.
You’re a big deal, Mr. Kaepernick. Instead of using your butt to make a statement, use that name. You want change? Make change.