Who Is Colin Kaepernick? Why Didn’t He Stand For the Anthem? And Why Do We Care?

Who is Colin Kaepernick? He’s an NFL quarterback with an underwhelming stat history who plays for the San Francisco 49ers and he’s all over the news thanks to a recent protest, in which he was the only participant. During the playing of the national anthem during Saturday’s preseason game, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand and face the flag, as is both tradition and a sign of respect that takes place before every major sporting event across the country. The commentary show called Pro Football Talk made strong note of the players ‘sit-in,’ thereby creating a national stir.

The NFL formally issued a statement indicating that “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” Kaepernick won’t be fined, and he won’t get in trouble with the 49ers either. The team also issued this statement on the protest. “The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Kaepernick later told NFL Media that the team didn’t know he was planning a protest.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed…. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

But they won’t “take football away” and Kaepernick likely won’t lose a single endorsement deal over the event. During a conference call with reporters on Saturday, coach Chip Kelly said that Kaepernick’s actions were “his right as a citizen.”

It’s true, Kaepernick indeed has the right to exercise his liberty as a citizen of the United States, but his choice to sit during the anthem has some people responding to his actions in an unfavorable light.

After the national frenzy over his choice went viral, Kaepernick finally issued a statement.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

His statement hit a nerve with many people. Why?

Because this statement of protest isn’t costing Kaepernick anything. He hasn’t made a significant sacrifice. He said he was protesting a country that oppresses black people, and that it would be selfish to look the other way, but he won’t be fined; he won’t be suspended; he won’t even get a slap on the wrist.

Did he draw attention to his perspective? Yes, definitely.

But many people think his efforts are laughable. The folks who are laughing seem to be doing so because Kaepernick has an average salary of $19 million, he’s the adopted son of two white parents, and the biological son to a white mother and African American father. He never served in the military, never served with law enforcement and sitting for the anthem has earned him tons of publicity.

This is a controversial topic to be sure, and there’s a reason Americans should care about his choice. Fans can only presume Kaepernick is drawing attention to police shootings with his protest, and it matters — it definitely matters. But not for the reason many people think. You see, statistics tell a different story — violence, oppression and injustice have no color preference. In fact, since the advent of the Washington Post police-shooting tracker from 2015, it’s clearly true that more Caucasian citizens are killed by police than African American citizens. It’s also statistically proven that violence across the board is totally colorblind, as people of all races fall victim to tragedy on a daily basis. Shocking but true.

It’s also true that America’s president is half black, and that thousands upon thousands of African American heroes — and heroes of every creed and color, and minority — have served in the nation’s armed forces. Many of Kaepernick’s NFL colleagues expressed themselves on behalf of those who have served.

Victor Cruz, receiver for the New York Jets spoke to reporters after Saturday’s preseason game.

“I think, personally, the flag is the flag, regardless of how you feel about the things that are going on in America today and the things that are going on across the world with gun violence and things of that nature. You got to respect the flag, and you got to stand up with your teammates. It’s bigger than just you, in my opinion. You go up there, you’re with a team, and you go and pledge your allegiance to the flag, and you sing the national anthem with your team, and then you go about your business. Whatever your beliefs are, are your beliefs.

“Colin is his own man. He decided to sit down and sit out, and that’s his prerogative. But on a personal standpoint, you have to stand up there and understand that this game and what’s going on around the country is bigger than just you.”

Keenan Reynolds is currently trying to make the Baltimore Ravens’ roster as a receiver and kick returner. He played his college ball as a quarterback at Navy and said Kaepernick has the right to sit during the anthem if he wants.

“Obviously, being in the military, I’m proud of that position, I’m proud of being able to defend the country, so humbled other people that came before me and gave their lives so I can play on the field and run around and we can live freely in this country, but like I said, that’s his right, and he’s going to do what he has to do.”

What do you think? Is Kaepernick right? Will his choice make a difference?

[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]