Sometime far in the future, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem will be heralded as another example of a Black athlete using his or her national platform to draw attention to the continued mistreatment of Black people in the United States. Undoubtedly, former teammates, coaches, and journalists will step forward to present their memories — seen through lenses covered in vaseline so that the edges are softened and the ugly stuff excised — in which they will extol Kaepernick for his courage and for his willingness to do the right thing even though he had to know that his act would be deliberately misinterpreted by those whose kneejerk reaction to any critique of the United States is to invoke the bodies of American war dead.
It’s especially ironic that the military is used to somehow prove that Kaepernick is wrong for speaking up when African Americans serve their country in the military at a higher rate — 17.8% — than its proportion of the U.S. population — 13.3% — than do white people, whose proportion of the population is 77.1% but who are only represented in the military at a rate of 74.6%.
Kaepernick issued a statement through the NFL after the San Francisco 49ers first pre-season game, after he had failed to join the pre-game ceremony of standing for the playing of the national anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”