Colin Kaepernick is a man. He is a citizen. He is a taxpayer. He is a quarterback.
None of these roles require him to give up his civil liberties. He has a right to take a knee. He has a right to protest injustices in this country, his country.
People fought for his right to free speech. By exercising those rights, he honors the lives of everyone who risked their own.
Apparently, President Donald Trump thinks this only includes veterans. He forgets the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the everyday people who fought under a flag that denied them full citizenship rights because of the color of their skin.
Never miss a local story.
Trump’s loss of historical memory leaves out the countless mothers, fathers, children, sportsmen and women who constantly stood up to this government to voice their rights as citizens.
And yet, Kaepernick is following a tradition older than the Civil Rights Movement. He is following the tradition of black men and women who have been demanding more from this country since they were brought here as slaves in the 17th century. Black people constantly push this country to live up to its democratic ideals. Kaepernick is following in the most American tradition there is: protest.
Trump claims that taking a knee dishonors veterans. If Trump is so concerned, why did he dishonor transgender veterans by trying to expel them from the armed services? It would be wrong to assume that all veterans greet the flag in the same way or for the same reasons. Ask Iraq Veterans Against the War. Ask Veterans for Kaepernick. I’m sure some of them would cringe at the president’s audacity to speak for them.
If the president cares so much for showing respect, why doesn’t he hold himself to the same standard? How presidential is it to call someone a “son of a bitch?” How presidential is it to bully people in a sorry attempt to deflect from a failing health-care bill? How presidential is it to threaten your citizens’ lives by throwing around nuclear threats?
Insulting these men is degrading, immature and racist. While he claims he didn’t say anything about race, targeting black athletes demonstrates Trump’s belief that these black men should, “just play the game.”
Such comments neglect the political dimension inherent in any game where athletes are shunned for exercising their rights, and infer that athletes should be seen and not heard.
These men aren’t race horses. They aren’t dogs in a fight. They are men with rights. The only person that should be fired in this scenario is Donald Trump.
Reach Jillean McCommons of Berea, a University of Kentucky doctoral student in history, at firstname.lastname@example.org.