One week ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew praise and ire in equal measure as he refused to stand for the national anthem, citing his protest at some of the ills he said were plaguing the United States.
It happened again Thursday, at the opening of the 49ers’ game against the San Diego Chargers, only this time, Mr. Kaepernick kneeled instead of sitting, and he was joined in silent protest by teammate Eric Reid. Further north, in Oakland, Seattle Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane offered solidarity by sitting on the bench during the national anthem.
There was an added dimension this time, however, one that emphasized the stark differences between the divergent schools of thought: The 49ers’ appearance at the Chargers’ Qualcomm Stadium was part of the hosts’ traditional Salute to the Military preseason game. For some, Kaepernick’s actions this time represented a deeper lack of patriotism, extending to the military that fights to preserve the very freedoms he is exercising.
The quarterback was booed in earnest by the crowd in San Diego when he took to the field to start the game, and a sign in the crowd read, “You’re an American. Act like one.”
Yet Kaepernick said he has the “utmost respect” for the nation’s military personnel, telling the Associated Press that he understands the sacrifices they make to secure his freedoms – including freedom of speech, and “freedom to take a seat or take a knee.” He cited several issues he was seeking to highlight by his actions, including racial injustice, police brutality, and the treatment of military veterans.
There are also some who take a different view, seeing the quarterback’s actions as quintessentially Millennial in their manner of patriotism, as the Christian Science Monitor’s Ben Rosen reported earlier this week:
Ever since Mr. Kaepernick began to commit this taboo form of protest Friday, some athletes, fans, and columnists have said the 28-year-old is unpatriotic. But Kaepernick's protest may show a different type of patriotism, one that has become more popular among Millennials than many that came before them: loving your country enough to question it.
Some who support the spirit of the protest, however, tire of words and would like to see more action to address the social challenges being highlighted. In tacit acknowledgment of this sentiment, Kaepernick said that while he plans to continue his protests as the regular season rumbles into gear, he also intends to donate $1 million "to different organizations to help these communities and help these people."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.