Kaepernick, Nike and patriotism


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The NFL has been the topic of debate over its last couple of seasons, as the league’s players began kneeling during the national anthem, an act of protest against police brutality and racial inequality. The movement started in 2016 with then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As more players began to join in the protest, harsh criticisms from many, including the President of the United States, prompted the NFL to require its players to stand for the anthem. 

Now, Nike, one of the NFL’s most prominent sponsors, has inserted itself into the controversey by revealing Kaepernick as one its faces of its 30th anniversary ad campaign, with a photo endorsing his protests. Immediately after this announcement was made, videos started making their way on the internet of people burning and destroying their Nike gear, calling for a total boycott of the brand.

Critics claim that kneeling is offensive to veterans and active military, a cry for attention and self-promotion, and wholistically unpatriotic. Even some who may claim to be sympathetic to the cause say there is a better time and place for these protests. These critics seem to not understand the country they claim to love. 

As a matter of fact, kneeling during the anthem while a nation watches is incredibly patriotic. These are men who have been given a national platform, and they are using it to shine a light on a darkness plaguing our nation, because they want solutions, because they want out country to do better and be better. And it’s working. A national dialogue has commenced.

U.S. senate candidate, Beto O’Rourke, a Texas democrat, gained national attention with his thoughts on NFL protests:

“And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said. “That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place.”

Critics claim that servicemen and women fought for the flag, and that we owe them respect by standing for the flag and anthem. This is a false patriotism, worship of a symbolic piece of cloth rather than an appreciation for the fundamental rights our military has served to protect, the rights that piece of cloth represents.

As a matter of fact, Kaepernick was encouraged to kneel by former serviceman and NFL player Nate Boyer.  

Colin Kaepernick is a patriot–he just wears a different uniform.

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