Defining Patriotism Through the Lens Of Colin Kaepernick

In Jackie Robinson’s 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made, the American sporting legend and trailblazer who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 had this to say when reflecting on his first World Series game: “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment… As I write this twenty years later, 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.”

Image title

In a piece published this morning by the Washington Post, former NBA legend, current Historian, author of Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White, and one of our great observers of modern social science Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote, “One sign of the maturation of American society is the willingness of those in the public eye, especially athletes, to openly take a political stand, even if it could harm their careers. The modern era of athletes speaking out began in 1966 with Muhammad Ali refusing to be drafted to fight other people of color. In 1967, I joined with football great Jim Brown, basketball legend Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali and other prominent athletes for what was dubbed The Cleveland Summit.

Image title

Together we tried to find ways to help Ali fight for his right of political expression. I dont know how much we were able to accomplish on a practical level, but seeing black athletes in support of Ali inspired others to speak out. The following year at the 1968 Olympics, African Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the medal ceremony as a protest to the treatment of people of color in the United States. In 2014, NBA players LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Alan Anderson, Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett and NFL players from the Rams and Browns wore I Cant Breathe shirts during warm-ups for a game to protest police killings of unarmed blacks.”

Image title

(Photo Credit: cleveland.com)

“What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernicks choice to remain seated during the national anthem,” Jabbar continued, “but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carloss raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is whats really un-American here.”

I have relatives who served in the US military, who fought in wars and returned home ravaged in ways physical, mental and emotional. I’m honored by their sacrifice and bravery, yet am not offended when people have chosen to not stand for the anthem, as the great Jackie Robinson once did. My relatives didn’t fight for some symbolic song or a piece of red, white and blue fabric, they fought for the freedoms that the Constitution promises. 

And when boiled down to this simple concept, San Francisco 49’ers quarterback’s choice to sit during the national anthem is as patriotic as his teammates who chose to stand, because the Constitution says that every American should be afforded the same rights and opportunities. And when there is a failure of that very basic premise, protest becomes everyone’s duty.

Every young student in this country is taught about The Boston Tea Party, where colonists had finally had enough with their lack of representation in the British Parliament. We watch Eyes on the Prize and hold aloft Dr. Martin Luther King’s powerful words as he lays his dream out at the March on Washington, which have become the lyrical manifestation of the Civil Rights Movement.

Image title

The Woman’s Suffrage movement, dating back as far as the Revolutionary War, protested and fought for women’s right to vote, The Stonewall Riots in 1969 brought the fight for Gay Rights above ground and people had to stand up, fight and die for safe workplace practices, minimum wages and the right to collectively bargain through unions.

Occupy Wall Street protested corruption and greed within the government and the country’s financial system, and there are many other examples that can be mentioned about people who’ve been fed up, who took a stance and said, “Enough is enough!!!”

And today, they’re celebrated for exercising their constitutional rights of free speech.

But Colin Kaepernick is some sort of pariah?

I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, but am saddened by this divisive wall of racism that won’t allow people to get as angry about the injustice being done as they seem to be about his form of protest. 

Today, Muhammad Ali is deified, but true students of history will never forget how he was vilified. Same for Kareem Abdul Jabbar, when he boycotted the Olympic Games and later parted ways with the name Lew Alcindor while converting to Islam.

Although his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the 1983 NBA All Star Game is now seen as an American treasure, I remember how a large segment of the population was disgusted by Marvin Gaye’s soulful version.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were cast aside, received death threats and their athletic careers were ruined. The same happened to others like Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, who staged his own protest against the flag and the Star-Spangled Banner, and Craig Hodges, who had the audacity to show up at the White House for the Chicago Bulls’ 1992 NBA Championship celebration adorned in a Dashiki celebrating his West African roots.

Hodges went rogue by handing President George H.W. Bush a letter that outlined the issues of oppression and injustice in the African-American community that he felt needed to be addressed at the highest levels of government.

And shortly thereafter, the man who once hit 49% of his three-point attempts in the NBA could not land another job in the league. All of their stances cost them their career. And that is the position that Colin Kaepernick could find himself in as well.

Image title

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

But let Roseanne Barr desecrate the anthem while grabbing her crotch, like she did in the summer of 1990 while singing it at a San Diego Padres game. Yeah, people weren’t happy, but that didn’t stop her from making a living, from her and her show not being blackballed. 

It’s abundantly clear that many Americans want nothing to do with an honest conversation where they get their feelings hurt. It’s almost like dealing with an emotional toddler who can’t understand, or has no interest in the real truth.

Is this really about patriotism and the Star-Spangled Banner?

Because one of a patriot’s fundamental rights is to speak up and protest something that’s not right. That’s what formed the basis of America when we stormed those ships in the Boston Harbor and tossed all that tea from the East India Company into the water in 1773. 

Or perhaps the majority of folks, other than having it make them dance and laugh, or help their team win a Super Bowl or an NBA title, have absolutely no desire for the souls of black folks.

And with more and more irrational vitriol mounting, it seems, perhaps, that they just might have no soul at all.


Related Articles


  1. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  2. Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  3. I will right away grasp your rss as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me understand in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  4. I am curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with? I’m having some small security issues with my latest blog and I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any recommendations?

  5. I liked up to you will receive carried out right here. The cartoon is tasteful, your authored material stylish. however, you command get bought an edginess over that you would like be turning in the following. in poor health definitely come further beforehand again since precisely the same nearly very often within case you protect this hike.

  6. This is a very good tips especially to those new to blogosphere, brief and accurate information… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article.

  7. In this great scheme of things you secure a B+ for effort. Where you actually lost me personally was in all the specifics. You know, they say, the devil is in the details… And it couldn’t be much more accurate in this article. Having said that, allow me tell you what did do the job. The authoring is certainly quite engaging which is possibly why I am making an effort in order to comment. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, whilst I can easily notice a leaps in reasoning you make, I am not really certain of exactly how you seem to unite your points which help to make the conclusion. For right now I shall subscribe to your point however wish in the near future you actually link the facts much better.

  8. In the awesome scheme of things you actually secure an A just for effort and hard work. Where exactly you actually misplaced me personally was first on all the details. As people say, the devil is in the details… And that couldn’t be much more correct in this article. Having said that, let me inform you precisely what did deliver the results. Your article (parts of it) is certainly incredibly engaging and this is possibly the reason why I am taking an effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, whilst I can certainly notice a jumps in reason you come up with, I am definitely not confident of how you seem to connect the details which in turn help to make the conclusion. For now I shall yield to your issue but trust in the future you connect the facts much better.

  9. Thank you so much for providing individuals with an extremely pleasant possiblity to check tips from this web site. It is usually very pleasurable and stuffed with amusement for me and my office co-workers to search the blog more than thrice a week to see the new things you will have. And lastly, I’m also actually fulfilled with all the magnificent principles you give. Some 2 facts in this posting are undeniably the most beneficial we have all ever had.

  10. I genuinely enjoy looking through on this website , it contains fantastic articles. “For Brutus is an honourable man So are they all, all honourable men.” by William Shakespeare.

  11. I like what you guys are up too. Such intelligent work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my web site 🙂

  12. Good write-up, I?¦m regular visitor of one?¦s website, maintain up the nice operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  13. I’ve learn several good stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you set to create this sort of fantastic informative website.

  14. What’s Happening i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its aided me. Good job.

  15. I conceive this website has got some really good info for everyone :D. “Time–our youth–it never really goes, does it It is all held in our minds.” by Helen Hoover Santmyer.

  16. I keep listening to the news speak about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i acquire some?

  17. Hey! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having difficulty finding one? Thanks a lot!

  18. What i do not understood is in truth how you are not really a lot more smartly-liked than you may be now. You are very intelligent. You realize thus significantly in terms of this subject, made me for my part consider it from a lot of various angles. Its like men and women are not interested until it?¦s something to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your individual stuffs nice. Always care for it up!

  19. Good day very cool website!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…I’m satisfied to seek out so many helpful info right here in the post, we’d like develop extra strategies in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  20. I don’t even know how I ended up right here, but I assumed this put up used to be good. I don’t realize who you might be but certainly you are going to a well-known blogger for those who aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  21. Hello, Neat post. There’s an issue together with your web site in web explorer, could test this?K IE still is the market chief and a big component of people will omit your fantastic writing because of this problem.

  22. I’m writing to let you be aware of what a perfect encounter my friend’s daughter obtained browsing your web page. She realized a wide variety of things, which include how it is like to possess a marvelous helping mood to get the others smoothly know precisely a number of specialized subject matter. You truly did more than our own expected results. Thank you for supplying those important, safe, explanatory not to mention easy guidance on this topic to Kate.

  23. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Cheers

  24. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic. I really like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great web site.

  25. I got what you mean , thanks for posting.Woh I am happy to find this website through google. “The test and use of a man’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind.” by Carl Barzun.

  26. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it!

  27. That is the appropriate weblog for anyone who wants to seek out out about this topic. You notice so much its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply great!

  28. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such excellent info being shared freely out there.

  29. An impressive share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit analysis on this. And he in truth bought me breakfast as a result of I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If doable, as you become experience, would you thoughts updating your blog with more particulars? It’s extremely helpful for me. Large thumb up for this blog post!

  30. Aw, this was a really nice post. In concept I want to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get one thing done.

  31. I wish to point out my love for your generosity in support of all those that should have guidance on in this niche. Your personal dedication to getting the solution all-around had become exceedingly informative and has surely empowered professionals much like me to attain their objectives. Your entire insightful recommendations can mean a whole lot a person like me and especially to my peers. Thank you; from all of us.

  32. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I’m very glad to see such magnificent info being shared freely out there.

  33. Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Many thanks

  34. Hello! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  35. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

  36. Valuable information. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this accident did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

  37. Hi there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  38. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favourite reason appeared to be at the web the simplest factor to remember of. I say to you, I certainly get irked even as other folks consider concerns that they plainly do not recognize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as outlined out the entire thing without having side effect , other people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

  39. I used to be more than happy to search out this net-site.I wanted to thanks to your time for this excellent read!! I positively having fun with each little little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you blog post.

  40. hello!,I like your writing so much! share we communicate more about your post on AOL? I require an expert on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

  41. I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful information I was looking for this info for my mission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.