In the News
Santa Clara, Calif.—To protest racial inequality and oppression, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the pre-game national anthem. Kaepernick, who’s biracial, says he’ll continue doing that until he feels “like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.”
At Thursday night’s preseason game in San Diego, Kaepernick chose to kneel rather than sit, “to show more respect for men and women who fight for the country.” He’d been criticized by some veterans but insists his protest isn’t about the military. Oppression “has become habitual,” says Kaepernick, 28. “This country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up.”
During practice this week, the quarterback also wore socks depicting police as pigs. He’s upset that some cops get put on paid leave after killing young black men.
Some fans have burned their Kaepernick memorabilia, and Fox News host Sean Hannity called him “a spoiled brat, out-of-touch, super-rich athlete.” But others—including some veterans—are defending Kaepernick’s right to protest. A Los Angeles Times editorial states, “Americans are not obligated to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to stand for the national anthem or to be grateful that they’ve been allowed to become wealthy quarterbacks.”
Kaepernick has been dealing with injuries and inconsistent play, so negative reaction to his protest might jeopardize his job. That makes former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar admire him even more: “What makes an act truly patriotic and not just lip-service is when it involves personal risk or sacrifice,” he says.
Kaepernick encouraged his teammates to ask him any questions about the protest—and says they’re not obligated to join in. The 49ers should focus on winning, Kaepernick says, but social issues can’t always be ignored. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Sources: espn.com, abcnews.go.com, washingtonpost.com, latimes.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
How do you feel about Kaepernick’s protest—and the reasoning behind it? Do you think it’s having the intended effect? having unintended effects? backfiring completely? Explain. Did your opinion about Kaepernick change when you heard about his socks? Why or why not?
Does such a protest by one person have the potential to raise awareness of major social problems? to lead to changes and solutions? Explain. Is a refusal to stand for the national anthem more likely to just make people angry? What difference, if any, do you see between sitting and kneeling?
What would you say to Kaepernick if you were a military veteran? a 49ers fan? his coach? When one person takes a strong position or calls for major change, how does that impact an entire group?
Do you think Kaepernick is selfish for taking attention away from his team? Do you agree with him that it would be selfish to “look the other way”? Explain.
Is Kaepernick spoiled, in your opinion? Is he using his fame in a good or bad way? If you were on his team, would you feel as if he were being a distraction? Do you think your reaction to him would depend on whether you were black or white? Explain.
Do you agree that racial oppression has become “habitual” in America? Habits can be tough to break; how might it be possible to overcome ingrained patterns of prejudice and racism?
What does the U.S. flag mean to you? Are you comfortable with everything it represents—or has represented? Are citizens obligated to show respect for their flag and country, even if they have major disagreements with how the government operates or treats people? Explain. Is taking a stand against injustice one way of respecting your country and fellow citizens?
What risks are involved with taking such a public stand? Do someone’s actions seem more meaningful to you when significant sacrifice and risk are involved? Explain. What have you risked—or what are you willing to risk—for your country? for your fellow citizens? for your faith?
Scripture links: Proverbs 21:2-3, 13; Isaiah 1:4-20; Luke 9:51-56; Romans 12:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:12; and 1 Peter 2:13-17.