Stand up, sit down; keep it in, let it out

Colin Kaepernck. Photo courtesy of

Distinguishing the line between disrespect and an NFL quarterback’s 1st Amendment rights

Along with a large majority of Americans, I was recently made aware of the fact that the 49ers starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, chose to sit through the national anthem while his teammates, opponents and the overwhelming majority of the crowd stood in the moments before an NFL preseason game.

In an article by the Associated Press, Kaepernick stated that he would not stand during the national anthem until he felt like “that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.” He went on to cite police violence as his motivation to stay seated.

Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem was met with both criticism and praise from several people across the nation. In a flood of social media posts, public statements and social commentary, Americans voiced their opinions.

While I can certainly understand the anger many people feel towards the fact Kaepernick chose to sit during the national anthem, I don’t understand why so many people are allowing it to ruin their day, or even allowing it to resonate farther than the print of the paper they read it from.

Kaepernick is a quarterback in the NFL, which is a pretty powerful platform. And while you could argue that he’s abusing his stance and proving himself to be an unworthy role model for young kids, you could just as easily argue that he’s doing the exact opposite.

There’s really no winning in debating this issue, so honestly I’d rather spend my time researching topics of more interest. But as your friendly neighborhood opinion editor for The Dakota Student, I feel I have an obligation to address the issue.

Please understand that by “addressing the issue,” I’m not saying that my words are important and should be regarded more than anyone else. Rather, I’m raising the issue in this article to hopefully get some feedback from the student body in the form of a letter to the editor. So if you have some thoughts, by all means, lets hear them. I can take it.

But honestly, a huge part of the reason this issue irritates me so much is the fact there are so many more pressing issues in America. There is a major election around the corner that has two incompetent frontrunners pandering for votes in every way they can.

I’m more concerned about the fact I have no confidence in either the Republican or Democratic presidential nominee. When you compare the issues, Kaepernick making the choice to ride the pine for a couple minutes more than he already will this season seems pretty trivial.

I find it hard to imagine a bigger distraction from issues that are far more important than Kaepernick’s decision. While millions of people hashtag their way to some sort of social justice, stories that actually matter are being overlooked.

Personally, I don’t agree with what Kaepernick did. I understand he is trying to invoke some change by using his celebrity status to bring light to a troubling issue in America. However, some might argue that his decision is easily misinterpreted as disrespect towards members of the military, more specifically those who have died defending the country.

Then again, in the article by the Associated Press, Kaepernick did specifically say his decision to sit while the national anthem played was not a reflection of his feelings towards members of the military. So with that being said, I personally find it dubious to make the claim his actions are disrespectful to those in uniform, but there is a larger issue at play here that is, sadly, being overlooked: his freedom.

Kaepernick is an American, and as an American he is allowed to exercise his 1st Amendment right. We do not have to agree with his opinion or actions, but we must accept the fact that he is allowed to voice his opinion in the manner he has chosen.

Just as Kaepernick might find it appalling that so many Americans see no issues to be addressed in this country, we might find it appalling that he does, or the way in which he choses to make a stand. There is a mutual respect that must be recognized while debating. We are a civilized country, and as such, we must act like it when someone says something we don’t agree with.

Many Americans died in defense of the very same flag that he is choosing to ignore. In a large way, what he’s doing could be seen as ignorant or disrespectful. But at the same time, its worth noting that while so many men and women have died for the American flag and the country it represents, they also died in defense of our freedoms; all of our freedoms, even Kaepernick’s.

I believe in the 1st Amendment. I believe in it so much I served in the Marines for eight years and helped defend it beside better men than me. While I do not particularly enjoy the fact that Kaepernick made the decision he did, I respect his right to do it. He is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to disagree with his opinion. But I will do so in a manner that reflects both maturity and respect.

Matt Eidson is the Opinion Editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]