Our flag is more than a symbol


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San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, is getting some attention with his actions, finally, with his protest of his understanding of oppression of African Americans in the United States.

Kaepernick chooses not to stand during the national anthem played before National Football League games. The quarterback has not stood during any of the team’s four preseason games, but it was only after the third game that anyone bothered to notice.

His actions brought both support and criticism. More than one veteran of the military has spoken up to point out he or she served to protect Kaepernick’s right to protest. Most of those veterans also go on to say they disagree with his stance.

Here’s why we think Kaepernick is wrong and is being disrespectful by not standing during the anthem and our flag and the song to which it refers.

It was under this flag that slavery was brought to an end in the United States. It was under this flag that women were granted the right to vote. It was under this flag that the Civil Rights Bill was signed and enacted. It was under this flag that an African American was elected president of our country. And, it will be under this flag that changes, improvements and advances for all will continue to be made.

But for all of the news about Kaepernick’s actions, there are many more that reflect the opposite.

Take, for example, a high school freshmen football team in Lapeer, Mich. Before their game Aug. 31 at rival Carman-Ainsworth High School near Flint, Mich., the team was informed by the host’s announcer that the national anthem would not be played before the game.

In Michigan, it is common practice at schools with multiple levels of a sport being played the same night to play the anthem once. The website, www.MLive.com, which represents several media outlets throughout Michigan and reported the original story, noted that the anthem was played before the junior varsity game involving the same two schools later that night.

The decision to not play the anthem before the freshman game was not done as any sort of protest, according to the website. But rather than accept that decision, the visiting freshmen Lapeer team stood along the sideline, saluted the flag and sang the national anthem before they took the field for competition. Their competitors across the field reportedly joined in as well.

Lapeer’s coaches told the website that the players took it upon themselves to sing the national anthem.

To protest the flag, it seems to us, is like saying those changes that have come about were meaningless; that the sacrifices made to bring about those changes are inconsequential. Even worse, it seems to say that the efforts of those individuals who sacrificed their lives for those changes are not worthwhile. That’s where Kaepernick does a disservice to his flag.

If Kaepernick is sincere, he needs to do more than sit. His actions have put him under a huge microscope. His actions are receiving the attention he wanted. What will be his response to all of the attention? Will he follow through with something more meaningful than sitting?

According to Yahoo! Sports on Friday, Kaepernick plans to pledge $1 million to racial equality issues. If true, this is significant because he is guaranteed to earn $11.9 million in base salary this season — whether or not he is on the 49ers’ roster. Kaepernick has already earned $400,000 in the form of an offseason workout bonus.

He said he hasn’t yet decided which organization or organizations he plans to donate to but is in discussions with several.

Some will say that the flag (and anthem) is only a symbol. Symbols, though, are important. Merriam-Webster provides one definition of symbol: “An action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality.”

The flag represents all that we were, all that we are and all that we will be. The United States has evolved a great deal since its inception. We’re not finished evolving.

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