It seemed like social media sites figuratively "blew up" over the weekend regarding the actions of San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. While most people stood and rendered honors during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of the game, Kaepernick chose to sit it out without paying respect to the Stars and Stripes.
Now if this had been a person in the grandstands who committed this act of defiance, it would've likely gone unnoticed. But when you're a professional athlete on one of the nation's top sports teams, it's something that people will stop and take notice.
After the game, Kaepernick remained not only defiant but seemed proud of what he did. In his own words, he did it to protest problems with race relations in this country.
"I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."
Funny. I don't seem to recall him having problems with race relations prior to the game. Then again, I watch these games to watch athletes compete versus listening to their political views.
In most cases, there were two outcomes on how people on social media reacted to his defiant nature. The first were those that supported his stance.
A number of people, particularly on the political "left," felt he made a very valid point -- that there are a number of issues regarding race relations in the United States. In a matter of fairness, Kaepernick didn't seem to draw attention to himself by saying or doing something during that protest.
He merely took a seat.
On the other side of the coin, there were a great number of people that were infuriated with his actions. In addition to being disrespectful to the American flag and what it represents, they emphasized that Kaepernick disrespected every American -- every man and woman representing every ethnic group in this country -- many of who fought and died so he had the freedom to sit down.
In addition, I don't know if there's anyone out there that did not see the image on social media regarding a wounded Marine sergeant that lost both of his legs in combat. The image shows him struggling to rise out of his wheelchair to render honors as the Star Spangled Banner played.
A lot of Kaepernick's strongest critics pointed to patriots like Pat Tillman, a former NFL player that joined the Army and became a Ranger -- a title very few in the armed forces can ever hope to achieve. They argue that this type of protest goes against the sacrifices Tillman and many others paid in service to their country.
At the same time, we tend to forget another group of Americans that pay a similar sacrifice each time those in uniform go into harm's way. I'm talking about our military families -- the spouses and children left behind to carry on while their loved ones serve in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea.
Kaepernick's actions were just as disrespectful to these families, which by the way also represent every ethnic group in the United States.
It's possible that Kaepernick and others like him don't understand the sacrifices our veterans pay. It's not clear whether anyone in his family served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and all the conflicts since then.
People who can make a similar claim simply don't fully understand or appreciate words like "duty" and "honor."
Now for someone who makes millions of dollars per year chasing a piece of tanned leather down a field a few months out of the year, I would hope maybe Kaepernick would do something more effective to bring about the change he feels needs to happen in this country. It would show that he really wants to make positive change to benefit all Americans.
Maybe he could've taken some of that small fortune he makes each year -- more than I'll ever see in a lifetime -- and help the citizens of Flint, Mich., whose water system was badly contaminated due to human carelessness. A million dollars would've gone a long way to help those most in need and could've encouraged other players to do the same.
Perhaps he could've made a significant contribution to the families that are continuing to recover from the flooding that battered communities bordering the Mississippi River. After all the finger pointing and blame being placed on a number of political candidates on their response to that crisis, having an NFL player show up with truck loads of supplies to help those most in need would've made a much stronger statement versus taking a seat and doing nothing.
From my perspective, the worst thing we could do is take revenge for what this one person did -- for the NFL to punish this player. But that's what a lot of folks seem to want after Kaepernick's actions reached "critical mass" over the weekend.
Much of that conversation seemed to focus on keeping him on the bench, prohibiting him from playing or cutting his salary. Others wanted him kicked off the team or banned from the NFL all together.
That's not only the wrong thing to do, but it also has the potential to backfire.
Consider this. There are a number of countries on this planet where freedom of speech and the right to personal expression are either prohibited or come with severe restrictions. I seriously doubt a citizen of North Korea would be allowed to take a seat during the playing of their national anthem or to demand their country do more to alleviate the suffering of their people.
Outspoken people like that tend to have something bad happen to them. If the NFL or this country were to go after Kaepernick and force him apologize, he wins and so do his supporters. They will argue that he was merely stating his opinion and that opinion is protected under the U.S. Constitution.
And they would be right.
What seems to be the best thing to do comes down to one word -- nothing. Instead of paying attention to what he's trying to do, the people of this country should simply tune him out.
Instead, let's take the moral high ground. Let's set the positive example and be role models for children to emulate versus having an NFL player try to sway their opinion by standing proudly and removing our hats and placing our hands over our hearts when the Star Spangled Banner plays or when the American flag passes by during a parade.
We can respectful in our own ways by paying proper respect to the American flag and the ideals it represents. After all, we have the same right to respect the Stars and Stripes that same way that Kaepernick wants to protest it.
-- Brian S. Orban