San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2012. Photo by Mike Morbeck.

Viewpoints: Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem


Viewpoints is a SpokaneFāVS feature where our writers respond to a weekly question. Readers are invited to participate by posting in the comment section below.

NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernik has refused to stand for the National Anthem during preseason football games as a way to raise awareness to issues surrounding race, discrimination and inequality. Fans have both supported and heckled the athlete for his decision.

We took it to FāVS columnists.

What’s your response to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem?

Jan Shannon: I support his right to protest

Jan Shannon
Jan Shannon

As a military veteran, I support Kaepernick’s right to protest by sitting through the playing of the national anthem, as I would support anyone’s right to follow their heart on any issue.

When one feels strongly about something, one should do whatever they feel necessary, especially, as in this instance, when the protest is neither illegal or harmful to anyone. The freedom our national anthem is supposed to represent also includes the freedom to protest


Neal Schindler: Freedom of Speech is uncomfortable

Neal Schindler
Neal Schindler

Whatever one’s view of the U.S. military service members’ sacrifices and the concept of patriotism, there’s no question that freedom of speech results in uncomfortable moments for everyone at some point. Whether it’s cultural content some deem pornographic, Islamophobic talk-show rants, left-wing campus groups protesting Israel, or anti-abortion activists displaying images of aborted fetuses along the Bloomsday course, free speech doesn’t free anyone from encountering upsetting words, images, and behaviors.

When celebrities, be they actors or athletes, use their fame as a platform for protest, they are speaking for the voiceless, the thousands or even millions of people who may hold similar values but don’t have anywhere near the media access. For me, Colin Kaepernick’s Sit Heard ’Round the World brings to mind a frequently quoted (and misattributed) Evelyn Beatrice Hall statement: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I happen to approve of Kaepernick’s message and method. Even if you don’t, the controversy that surrounds his actions serves as a reminder that the dazzling variety of edgy (and sometimes offensive) speech and behavior our Constitution protects helps keep our country vibrant and vital.

Matthew Sewell: Service isn’t “me first”

Matthew Sewell
Matthew Sewell

I have to admit that I got a good look at the back of my brain after reading that Colin Kaepernick had sat during the National Anthem. The eye-roll wasn’t because I’m a hater of justice, of African-Americans, or even that I’m a Broncos fan, though.


It bothers me that today everyone seems so obsessed with “taking a stand” or “making a statement” and doing so by essentially shouting “Hey Everyone! Look at me and how much I care!” Contrast this with the words from last week’s Gospel reading, read by Catholics around the world, where Jesus reminded the servant:


 “He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.'” (Luke 14:7-12)

I balk at the idea that service to the marginalized must include a vocal pronouncement of what it is that I’m doing, because it necessarily puts the attention on *me* first, instead of on them. That’s not how service works.

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Jan Shannon

Matt, I love how you managed to include the Revised Common Lectionary in your comment. You get heavenly bonus points for that, and also made me wish I’d thought of it. 🙂
Seriously though, you are right that it can sometimes seem that the one voicing their protest is drawing more attention to themselves than to the topic they are hoping to put forward. However, we must use our best judgment, and the reputation of the individual, to decide what their motivation was, and that can get tricky. I was sorry to see how the media drew the attention away from what K was trying to say and shone the limelight only on his protest. I’m hoping that was not K’s intention. When I stand up for Black lives, or trans lives, or any of the other marginalized groups that I try to support, I am not looking for attention, and I would hope that folks would give me the benefit of the doubt as to my intentions. I am extending K that same grace.

Matthew Sewell

Haha, I’ll take those heavenly bonus points! For what it’s worth, I definitely hope the same thing – that his effort was genuine.

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