Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem, a song that’s conveniently been separated from some of its slavery-inspired lyrics, has driven a wedge across the country. Ever since the San Francisco 49ers quarterback said he wouldn’t stand to honor a flag that represents something very different to him, everyone from fans, players, NFL executives and military veterans has chosen a side. Some of which were quite surprising and disappointing.

https://twitter.com/JerryRice/status/770451825921105920

Jerry Rice, who anyone with a brain would consider to be the best wide receiver of all-time, took to Twitter to deliver one of the most surprising commentaries on the subject. Starting off with the use of “All Lives Matter” was already a sign that things weren’t headed in the right direction, but he went on to chastise Kaepernick by saying “don’t disrespect the Flag.” Not to mention the half-moderate stance of, “I respect your stance but…” that many people have used as a veiled attempt to police protest.

As a former 49er legend and black athlete himself, Rice’s comments struck a chord for many. When it comes to misguided commentary, Rice knocked it out of the park.

Former New York Giants running back, Tiki Barber, later joined in during an interview by saying, “I agree with his desire to continue the narrative. There are issues in this country. That, you have to commend him for. But I don’t commend him for sitting and not honoring this country and our flag.”

But Twitter quickly reminded him that he’s got his own pass full of questionable moments. Including some that were deeply personal, such as leaving his pregnant wife for a 23-year-old and comparing hiding from the media to the experience of Anne Frank.

But the worst criticism to come from a former player, especially one who is black, came from Rodney Harrison.

“I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black,” Harrison said in an interview. “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on an every single [day] basis.”

Um… Rodney? Colin Kaepernick is black. It’s not clear whether he genuinely thought Kaepernick was of another race, or if this was a subtle shot at him having a mixed background and raised by white adoptive parents. If it’s the latter, Harrison’s comments venture into an entirely different problem that ties into black identity.

Fortunately, not all of the reactions to Kaepernick’s decision have been negative. One of the most moving came overnight in the #VeteransforKaepernick hashtag, where numerous vets showed their support for his stance, or simply, his right to express it.

 

https://twitter.com/colemanachase/status/770810251234930693?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Given that the first defense many people took against Kaepernick was “what about the people that fought for this flag?” it’s wonderful to see those same veterans speak for themselves instead of being used as a argument tool by the media who presume to know how they feel.

To make things even more clear, Kaepernick went to great lengths this past weekend to show appreciation for the military.

“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.”

Given how quickly this situation grew, one could say this is all going to be a lasting timestamp in both the worlds politics and professional sports. Looking back, Jerry Rice, Tiki Barber, Rodney Harrison and many others could look back to see that they were on the wrong side of history when all a man wanted to do was protest in peace, which is what everyone claims they want. Until they get it, that is…

Allow me to reference a piece on Cam Newton, back when he was intimidating everyone with his confidence and before he forgot race existed. America doesn’t like it’s black athletes to have an opinion. They just want them to play and follow the rules, both the rules of the game and the unofficial rules of the culture. One of which is that they should be more grateful than anything and look the other way when it comes to social issues.

But that’s not what Kaepernick is doing, and it’s worth applauding. He’s fully utilizing his platform and potentially putting opportunities on the line so that he can support a cause that’s larger than himself and football. It’s just unfortunate that he’s also fighting on behalf of many of the same black athletes that are choosing to chastise him. We’ll see the support he gets tonight as he plans to continue to sit during the National Anthem in the 49ers game against the San Diego Chargers.

While it’s been overused recently, this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is extremely appropriate.

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action…

Photo Credit: Flickr/Brook Ward

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