Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand for the national anthem before a 49ers game has generated a lot of debate. Professional athletes, the news media and the public are talking about whether he chose the proper platform, and if it was his place to make such a statement.

Share story

Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit out the national anthem before his team took the field has generated both angry and supportive commentary. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback said he chose not to stand for the anthem to protest the oppression of black people and people of color in the United States.

There has been much debate from football players, the news media and the public whether or not he chose the right platform, and if it was his place to make such a statement. Kaepernick’s stance has further highlighted issues of race and ethnicity in America. Writers from The Undefeated, The Intercept, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have weighed in and provided a deeper understanding of what Kaepernick did and why it matters.

Bomani Jones at The Undefeated supports Kaepernick’s civil protest. Jones underscores why his action was significant: He made no plea to both sides, nor did he make a call for unity. He’s not concerned with whether his team or his league has his back. When he could have smoothed over any pending reaction to his actions, he focused squarely on racism, the most consistent and overpowering impediment to black success in America, and the thread that connects every era of its history.”

Jones also suggests that criticism of Kaepernick misses the point.

“To oppose racism is righteous. To deny its existence, no matter the reason, is cowardice. To treat a peaceful protest like an act of war against whiteness or America — notions used interchangeably in this debate, which is problematic — is hypocrisy.”

Is the national anthem a symbol of racism and oppression? The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz tackles that question, combing through the lyrics and exploring the background of Francis Scott Key, the song’s author.

“So when Key penned ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,’ he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times criticized the attention to how Kaepernick made his stand and not what he was standing for.

Here’s the problem: That conversation feels as if it is headed nowhere.

“There was little, if anything, said about poverty. Or education. Or housing discrimination. Or any of the variety of other factors that create the divisions in society Kaepernick wants to erase.

“Much of the resulting debate centered on Kaepernick’s method of protest and ignored the issues he raised. When the issues were discussed, they were handled in a depressingly simplistic manner.”

The Washington Post ran an op-ed from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, retired professional basketball player, who pointed out the legacy of social-justice acts by athletes, and how far we have not come.

What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”

Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociologist and advocate for human and civil rights, writes in The Seattle Times Wednesday, “… I support Kaep in stating his opinions, the method and vehicle that he has chosen to employ toward those ends, and his willingness to face the consequences for doing so. I do now and have all my life more than anything else abhorred silence in the face of injustice. In this regard, silence is evil’s greatest and most consistently dependable ally.”