Theres been a lot of debate lately about Colin Kaepernicks refusal to stand for the national anthem and whether or not his anti-oppression protest and the increasing number of players who support him represent the unpatriotic inhabitants of our sovereign land.
Theres this growing sentiment that NFL players dont respect the American flag or the veterans who fought and died for the liberties we enjoy and dont cherish their country.
On Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., however, Washington Redskins offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, a native of Cameroon completed his naturalization process and along with 45 other candidates, officially became an American.
Im the one who said that I can finally call myself an American, he said after the ceremony.
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According to the Washington Post, The 24-year came to this country with his family at the age of 6 and has spent three-quarters of his life here, mostly in the Washington area. His brother Cyrus, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, also plans on becoming a citizen, and Kouandjio talked about the new rights he now enjoys: He can get a passport, he can vote, he can run for office.
Before…all I could do is just watch CNN or just watch FOX or just watch; I wasnt a participating member in all decisions, Kouandjio told reporters. I still cant be the president which is something Ive always wanted to do, but I can do other things, so its awesome.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide player can be described by some as the anti-Kaepernick. Hes a guy who wasnt born in this country and he expresses the gratitude and humble personality that some Americans are seeking in these so-called militant football players who dont have to be thankful for citizenship because they have it already.
Hes also an example of the diversity of Black people and the beauty of America, showing an obvious divide in philosophy between immigrants in this country who seek citizenship like its a lost child and Black people whose families have been here since its inception.
In Kouandjios case, he says his parents came to America seeking more opportunity, a better education and a better way of life for their children.
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On Tuesday he stood and recited the Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Allegiance and held on firmly to his miniature American flag. After, he was mobbed for photographs, and speaking into cameras, and posing with a U.S. cabinet secretary after pledging allegiance to that same flag.
Naturally, he doesnt think protesting the anthem is the way hed go about it, but as he learns more about being an American — and the political and social history of being a minority of any kind in America — he also understands the protesters right to express themselves and fight against injustices in this country.
Kouandjio, like a lot of people in this country, wouldnt choose to aim his protest at the flag for obvious reasons, but like many people (also) pointed out, he told the Washington Post, people fought for their rights to (protest). They have the right to do what theyre doing. I mean, theyre using their platform in a different way, to get their values across. Thats part of what America is.
Hes right. Not much different, but much less intimidating and hate-filled than the Klu Klux Klan legally marching through ones town spewing bigotry under local police protection.
This cornucopia of ideas and opportunity — and oppression — is what America is all about. Finding a way to rise above the nonsense and make the most of your chances in this country. Having pride in being an American and all it is supposed to represent. Im sure plenty of NFL players feel that way contrary to popular media-driven beliefs. Kouandjio is surely one of those guys.