Athletes like Colin Kaepernick and other celebrities who kneel or otherwise protest during the National Anthem are wrong and should be disciplined. Their behavior is morally and ethically unacceptable on several counts, but I will concentrate on two principles here.
When the first news broke on kaepernick’s actions, I was offended, but brushed it off as coming from a misguided and pampered man who didn’t have a clue about history, patriotism, or sacrifice. Then came the copycats who evidently thought it was the latest cool and attention-getting thing to do. As I watched the proliferation of these shameful demonstrations, I became more and more disturbed by them. Then, I learned that some of the players on the women’s basketball team of my alma mater took a knee at their exhibition game. Now it’s personal. It’s time to stop this idiocy by withholding support from organizations that refuse to concede that it is wrong.
First, it is morally wrong because it is an affront to this great nation, the founders of which ensured greater freedom for its citizens than any nation on earth. The National Anthem and the American flag are the universally known symbols of all that our nation stands for. All lives sacrificed and injuries suffered on the fields of battle for over two centuries are represented by those symbols. The essence of freedom that is codified in the Constitution is reflected in the anthem’s presentation and the flag’s display.
Most people would probably say this type of protest is non-violent. However, if such action causes emotional stress on the vast majority of people who love their country, are they not victims? Millions of good people are heart-broken when their country is maligned in this manner. It may be legal, but it is not right.
Kaepernick was quick to say that he is patriotic, but that his actions were directed toward oppressive treatment of African-Americans. No, Mr. Kaepernick, your protest is oppressive treatment of all patriotic Americans for the cause of one perceived injustice in a nation of abundant goodness and virtue. If you want to protest prejudice, go stand in front of a courthouse in your non-uniform attire. That is your legitimate First Amendment right, and, don’t worry, the media will find you. Don’t denigrate the symbols of the greatest democracy in the history of mankind. That is a moral travesty.
Secondly, it is morally and ethically wrong to protest anything controversial as an official representative of an organization that does not share your opinion. By doing so, protestors are making a public statement that their opinion is that of the rest of the organization. In effect, the protestors are stealing the rights of others in the organization to be recognized as having an opposing opinion. When Kaepernick kneels in his uniform, he is stating that he is representing the 49ers, the 60,000 fans in Levi’s Stadium, and the millions of followers tuning in to the game. His actions have no doubt cost the organization and support organizations millions of dollars. True, he has the First Amendment right to protest, but not the right to falsely represent millions of people and prevent millions in revenues.
A truck driver would be fired for having a banner on his trailer demonizing state troopers. Hobby Lobby would terminate an employee wearing an apron promoting abortions. A vegan waitress would not last long refusing to serve steaks at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. A secretary distributing her own corporate policy on company letterhead would be in big trouble. An athlete should be benched or cut from the team for protesting in uniform. First Amendment rights are for individuals to exercise on their own time and their own dime. College athletes, although not paid, are compensated by the fans and tax payers in the form of scholarships. In the stadiums and arenas, they are ambassadors for their schools, alumni, fans, and tax payers. Athletic directors, coaches, and owners should mete out appropriate discipline according to the athlete’s offense to the stakeholders they work for and the damage done to the team.
I tend to give these young athletes some benefit of a doubt that they just really don’t know any better. But, they are never going to learn about true First Amendment rights and loyalty to their organization and fans as long as their weak leaders opt for political correctness over responsibility and accountability.