Sunday, October 1, 2017

Veterans Know Kaepernick Is Right

Let's keep our eye on the ball.  Colin Kaepernick and the few who accompanied him starting more than a year ago had a single purpose for kneeling during the national anthem - which is still the worst anthem on the planet, an unsingable paean to violence and imperialism and just a fucking song - and that purpose was and remains this:

Protesting the police murders of unarmed black men and women.

And the general racism and inequality that pervades American society.

Not protesting the flag, which is just a fucking flag.  Not protesting the Orange Menace, as much as it deserves vigorous, widespread protest.  Not showing solidarity - that's what your union is for.

Colin Kaepernick's kneeling is about protesting racism and police brutality against black people.

Even paying attention to anything else taking place on the football field is promoting the distraction from the real issue.  Let's keep our eyes on the prize.

Bill Barnwell at ESPN:

There just isn't a strong enough case for teams to pass on Kaepernick, given the desperate public outcries for useful quarterbacks and the nature of his protests. Even if you disagree with his stance, it's bizarre to contrast his peaceful political dissent as a crime that should keep him off rosters in a league in which even marginal players embroiled with confirmed or alleged incidences of domestic and/or sexual assault can sustain careers.

Watching so many NFL teams willfully make ignorant choices and then complain about the lack of quarterback options while leaving a clearly qualified candidate on the sidelines makes it seem like the quality of decision-making in the modern NFL is far worse than the quality of play.
And veterans, who literally fought for Kaepernick's right to protest, know what the issue is.
U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith felt like he was walking with a rock in his shoe all day. In the aftermath of Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem, Smith heard a lot about how he had been disrespected by what the San Francisco 49ers quarterback had done and said from a lot of folks who never served in the armed forces.

Kaepernick has been sitting during the singing of The Star Spangled Banner the entire preseason, although it was only noticed last Friday when he was dressed to play. In an exclusive interview with’s Steve Wyche, Kaepernick explained his protest: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Smith said that people burning the quarterback’s jersey “with the troops and veterans being the reason seemed ridiculous.” Being used wasn’t a new feeling. Smith said politicians and corporations often use the military and its servicemen and women for promotion. That leaves some veterans, like Smith, feeling like props for people who haven’t made the sacrifice, but want to cloak themselves in their credibility.
By writing this letter, which was written on Medium, it was an opportunity for him and other vets to counter that rationale. Although the 31-year-old works as a media strategist with the National Education Association, the letter was thought of, created and crafted as something entirely outside of his job and among some of Smith’s friends and colleagues.
One of the most important things about the letter is the diversity of the people signing it and the reasons that they are putting their names on it.
“I wanted to put something out there in the world … to say that ‘There are veterans who not only agree with Colin Kaepernick’s right to do that, but also agree with the substance of the action,’ ” Smith said. “And are willing to stand up and say Black Lives Matter and this is an important issue that we need to address in our country.
“This is an incredibly diverse list of people. I didn’t know how many signatures I was going to get – if I’m going to get five or 10 signatures on this letter. … There’s diversity in service – every branch of the service is represented here – there are black people, white people, Latinos, a Native American person on here. Gay veterans, straight veterans, female veterans, male veterans from both coast to southeast, to southwest, the heartland, pretty much any sort of identity you can imagine, it’s signed onto this letter in the form of one person or more.”

In 1947, former Army officer Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Robinson experienced taunts, epithets, and threats of violence for simply standing up to the status quo of segregation in America.
Since 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick engaged in a silent protest to bring attention to the state of emergency facing people of color in America, a chorus of detractors have lined up to denounce his stand, or more accurately his sit. Fans have burned his jersey. A presidential candidate suggested he leave the country. Many have claimed his protest disrespected American veterans.
Jackie Robinson isn’t here today to tell us what he would think of Kaepernick’s protest. But he did convey the same sentiment about the national anthem as Kaepernick in his 1972 autobiography, writing, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
As military veterans, we write to express our support for the tradition of advocacy by athletes that is embodied by Jackie Robinson and carried on by Colin Kaepernick.
For generations, American athletes have used their public voice to force our collective attention towards the crises and issues that challenge our national conscience. Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Ariyana Smith, the Minnesota Lynx, the Missouri Tigers football team, and stars across professional sports declaring that #BlackLivesMatter, are all part of a brave tradition of protest by athletes. Far from an anomaly, athletes leading on social change has been the norm in America.
The right for those athletes, and all Americans, to protest is one we all pledged to defend with our lives if necessary. Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech.
While we would not all personally choose to protest in a manner identical to Kaepernick, we respect and honor his choice, and whole heartedly join him in stating unequivocally that BLACK LIVES MATTER. The current state of affairs for people of color in America is unsustainable and unacceptable. According to analysis by the Washington Post, black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. Far too often, people of color are dying at the hands of law enforcement personnel in the streets, our jails, and their homes. Indictments are rare and convictions are essentially nonexistent.
This status quo outrages us as men and women who raised our right hands and pledged to defend, with our lives if necessary, a Constitution that proclaims intent to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Those ideals are simply not being upheld for all Americans.
As veterans, we implore all Americans to find your own way to challenge this status quo and advocate for “a more perfect union.” Your method of protest may not be to refrain from the traditions surrounding our national symbols, and it doesn’t have to be. You have the same right as Colin Kaepernick to choose whether and how to advocate, a right we support and served for. However you choose to use your voice, please do so with an understanding that many veterans do not condemn the protest of activists like Jackie Robinson, Colin Kaepernick and everyday Americans seeking justice. Indeed, we see no higher form of patriotism.

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