Kaepernick Implementing America’s Most Basic Constitutional Right
By: Brody Beaver
Peaceful protests in the United States have been the backbone of America. They have helped progressively shape society with innovative ideals, but have recently sparked conflict that has divided the American people.
A peaceful, yet controversial, topic was fueled by the kneeling NFL players and Colin Kaepernick. Fifty-three percent of Americans say it’s never appropriate to kneel during the National Anthem, according to a Washington Post poll surveying 1,850 Americans.
Members of the military have made their voices heard. These individuals have differing opinions on the matter, varying across the spectrum when deciding on whether they support, are dissatisfied, or think the movement is a disgrace.
A survey conducted by the Washington Examiner took a poll of 8,000 service members. Sixty-two percent of servicemembers say athletes have the right to protest during the anthem, but 38 percent will stop watching because they find it disrespectful to military members.
Some members of the military are protecting the constitutional rights of athletes, pointing out that this is one of the reasons they are fighting for the country. They sacrifice their privileges as Americans, so that others can express their views without persecution.
In interviews with service men and women, their initial response was that their views are their own and do not represent the United States military or government.
“His reason for kneeling doesn’t have anything to do with the military,” said Javan Gaiter, an Air Force veteran. “Even if it did have something to do with the military, I wouldn’t care because he has the right to peacefully protest.”
Veterans have also taken to social media and other outlets, providing their personal opinion that support this issue. To make their message clear, members created a viral thread on Twitter, “#vetsforkaepernick,” posting personal military photos and other encouraging words to express support and inform others of what their military service represents.
“It's the freedoms we have to express our ideals and to inspire change needed throughout the country…so if you don’t agree with a policy or action, you should be able to protest peacefully without repercussions,” Gaiter said.
Others recognize this valid reasoning, the premise of constitutional kneeling, but view the decision as a subject of bad taste due to the symbolism of the American Flag: purity, valor, and justice.
A major concern is justice, In a national poll of 3,769 individuals by Pew Research Center from February through May 2016, 43 percent of African Americans and 11 percent of those identifying themselves as white, believe that the country will not make an effort to improve equality rights.
“He (Kaepernick) is protesting the ideals and beliefs on what this country was founded upon,” said Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Max Hebert. “He should be doing something to prevent corrupt individuals in these positions, which can be difficult to do. Yes, they are executing their constitutional rights, but the American flag is somber and should be respected. I may not agree with kneeling during the National Anthem, but as a military member I raised my right hand to defend the constitution of the United States, which includes the freedom of speech.”
Other veterans are impartial to this decision.
“I wouldn’t say I agree, but I definitely support his right to peacefully protest, which is what we swore to protect and defend,” Army veteran Ashlee Blackburn said. “I could see how people can be upset, but I think it’s a prime time for him to protest injustices. Peaceful protests have inspired change throughout the country since the establishment of America and we should all respect others decision to protest even though we may disagree or find it disrespectful.”
In 2016, President Barack Obama said the protest has brought new light to the issue, giving consideration to the veterans and social aspects.
“When it comes to the flag, the national anthem, and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who've fought for us -- that is a tough thing for them to get past, to then hear what his (Kaepernick’s) deeper concerns are.”
U.S Army veteran Nate Boyer, discussed with Kaepernick the most effective way to exemplify his message of social injustice without offending the veteran community. National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed Boyer, asking him his opinion on peaceful protest.
“I fought to defend our rights, which obviously include the first amendment. I have defended the right of someone to stand right in front of my face and burn an American flag and call me a baby killer or call me whatever they want. I still fought for that,” Boyer said.
In American history, several peaceful movements have taken place to address issues extending from gaining independence from England, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and most recently the Women’s March.
In all three movements, individuals congregated and shared a common goal of wanting their message to be heard around the nation and world.
Colonists in early America boycotted the Townshend Act, an act that taxed goods imported to the colonies. The peaceful demonstrations made it obvious to the British government that the colonists were not going to accept taxation without representation, becoming a philosophy that has stayed the course through American history. The Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent leaders, accomplished social change peacefully through the 50’s and 60’s through sit-ins, bus boycotts, and marches, shedding light on social injustice toward African Americans in the south.
One of the most notorious movements during this time was the March on Washington in 1963, where 250,000 people congregated at the Lincoln Memorial, where King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The initiatives set forth by King and other have given freedoms to people of color and improved equality throughout the country.
The Women's March was also, “grounded in the nonviolent ideology of the Civil Rights Movement,” which occured last January in Washington D.C. The 500,000 people in attendance, nonviolently protested President Donald Trump.
Members are planning to continue protesting in the near future, and have scheduled another march in Washington on Jan. 19, 2019.