Colin Kaepernick And The National Anthem

August 27, 2016

kaepernickDuring a preseason football game on Friday, August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand with the rest of his team during the playing of the national anthem. You can read for yourself his explanation for his behavior, as well as the official responses of both the 49ers and the NFL at this article

Colin earned an undergraduate degree in Management from the College of Business at The University of Nevada, where I am an Associate Professor of Management. I never had Colin in class, but I’ve never known a single faculty person to have anything but praise for his character and behavior when he was a student at UNR.

On the first day of my nearly 8 great years of service to my country on active duty enlistment in The United States Air Force, I took the oath of enlistment. I affirmed that I would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I served during the time of Operation Desert Storm, but I was never deployed in the theater of combat.

During those years of the Gulf War, I remember TV and print images of people burning the flag of The United States in public. I remember vividly being very proud of the fact that my service in the military helped ensure their constitutional right to express ideas in ways that I personally disagreed with. I never even considered feeling disrespected or offended by someone’s choice to burn the flag. I can’t recall a single second of anger toward the flag burners, only sincere gratitude that I lived in and had the honor to serve the people of the greatest country on earth.

I was thankful I had been given the opportunity to serve, and honestly, that was the only choice I focused on whenever I saw an image of a burning flag. For the record, I personally didn’t like the war, but I wrote letters to my US congressional representative and both US senators from my then home state of Oklahoma asking them to support President Bush during this time.

I wish Colin had chosen another way to express his concerns. Again today, I feel not one ounce of animosity toward Colin for his choice, only the familiar deep gratitude I’ve never lost being a citizen of The United States of America. My concern today is not for the people who strongly disagree with Colin, because people have that right in this country. My concern is for those who suggest that Colin’s behavior was a sign of disrespect to current and former members of our Armed Forces.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I am a veteran, and I am not offended. I want to try to better understand Colin’s choice, and I want to assume personal responsibility for continuing to change myself, which at the end of the day is the most powerful thing I could ever do to help improve the world we live in.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. I will post all comments that are 1) not anonymous and 2) civil, even if you disagree.

photo credit

Related Posts:

Real Leaders Love Their Enemies

Courage Always Exists In The Present. What Can I Do Today?

Gabby Douglas Honors The National Anthem Exactly As I Do


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Comments (26)

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  1. phil suess says:

    I am very sad Colin did not stand with his team and support the people of the United States during the National Anthem. The singing of the National Anthem is such a respected tradition that binds all to a common theme. We can voice our differences but don’t do it during our moment of recognizing our bond. As I write this it reminds me of a selfish child who has not gotten his way.

    He is a representative of the 49er organization. He was wearing their uniform. What was the response of the team leaders?

    Bret, you are amazing. Your position of leading through better understanding of different views needs to be shared more. Exploring views needs to be done in a respectful environment. Colin has chosen to disregard that environment that makes us strong.

    Thank you.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Phil. I hear everything you are saying about the choice he made wearing the uniform. Whenever I represent an organization, in uniform or not, I try to remember I have a responsibility to the brand that transcends my personal beliefs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Larry Murray says:

    I believe all Americans have the right to choose what’s right for their family, have freedom of religion, the right to bear arms. Most of all the freedom to speak out. But WE also have a responisbility to our young!, I do not believe anyone that hold influence ( sports, actors, politicians just to name a few). Should think of the impact on our youth.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Larry. I hear you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Jim Stastny says:

    I ,too, took an oath, from which I have never been released, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That Constitution gives everyone and anyone the right to express themselves freely. That would include sitting out the national anthem.

    That being said, Kaepernick can go to hell.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Jim. Thanks for your service to your country and for sharing your thoughts. Bret

  4. Gary MacDonald says:

    Dear Bret,

    Your comments are very reflective of what I hope many responses will be. However, my initial response was not so kind. Especially after watching the tape of him delivering those comments.

    I agree that it is because of the spilt blood of so many veterans like you in defense of our freedoms, that this young man is able to express his thoughts. Personally, I just happen to not agree with the spirit of those thoughts.

    You see, I believe that the events that are unfolding before our eyes have undermined many years of progress in racial relations in our country. The specific instances I bring up began with the response to the officer involved shooting in Ferguson and continued with the indictments basically assuming the guilt of the officers involved by public authorities over the death in Baltimore. Due process was nowhere to be found. Tempers were inflamed and destruction followed.

    I was in Harlem in New York City the weekend following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. I was afraid for me and for my family. The experience was one I never wish to forget. Watching each street corner be occupied by a minimum of 25 policemen in riot gear was not the picture of America I had grown up with.

    To me Colin’s statements basically indicted the law enforcement community once again. Is such a statement in any way healing or helpful? I think not. Do I affirm his right to say those things? Yes I do. I just wish he had chosen a different way to reach out to provide answers rather than accusations.

    Thanks for the forum,


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome back, Gary! I purposefully tried to stay away from the reasons he protested. That to me is a separate and more complex issue that I am still working through. Colin is responsible for his choice, I’m responsible for my response to it. This was a tough one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  5. Ron Stow says:

    Your response was shared via Facebook by a fellow Oklahoman. Thank-You for your service. I too served in the USAF (active, reserves, civilian). I see people all the time disrespecting the flag in one way or another. I suppose that is their right to do so IAW our constitution. Your thoughts are fair, however distasteful it may be to see this from someone making his salary but his freedoms are protected by people making 1/10th that. Given the opportunity to speak to Colin personally I doubt I could be polite. Thanks Brett.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Ron. Thank you too for your service. I do very much understand and respect your position. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

  6. Bret,

    Well said! I agree with you that I am proud to live in a country that we can express our opinions even when you don’t agree with the other person. I don’t think Colin’s demonstration was helpful and would like to see him do more if he is that passionate about the cause.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and now I know a little more about my favorite UNR professor!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Justine! I hear you. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  7. Mark Behl says:

    Brett, thanks for your comments. As always, very well said and very thought provoking. I am disappointed as well in the decision by Colin, but thankful for those who have fought for, and in some cases, paid the ultimate price for the freedom he has to do so.

    Best, Mark

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark!

  8. Kandas Myer says:

    I can appreciate his conscience and his concern about oppression. But I do believe the public demonstration of his ‘unwillingness’ to honor the flag was self-centered, selfish and suggestive of an egocentric way of ‘showing’ his concern. If one would truly like to demonstrate one’s discomfort with the racial divisiveness occurring in our nation I think we all have an obligation to DO something, not an obligation NOT to do something. Collin, give some(or all) of your millions to causes dedicated to uniting the races. Give some of your time to volunteer to feed the hungry and oppressed. Offer to clothe the poor. We have so many ways to demonstrate love. I feel his actions will build divisiveness not help heal our nation. And by the way, if you really want to SEE oppression… Try living in the majority of other nations around the globe. The most oppressed I have ever been, is when I lived in the Bahamas, where only 10% of the people are white (we were not welcome as residents and not permitted to be employed there) and, ironically, 9% of the whites were British…who looked down on the Americans. Way, way down. Rare perhaps, but there are many more nations where many other races and/or genders or classes of human beings are VERY, very oppressed, compared to America. Give thanks we can express ourselves. Then go out and DO SOMETHING to make it better.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Kandas. I hear you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Bret

  9. Wally Bock says:

    There should be no debate about whether Mr, Kaepernick has the right to do what he did. The Constitution gives all of us the right to express our opinions, however popular or unpopular, as long as we don’t endanger others by doing so.

    My question is: What else had he done in the service of his beliefs? Has he donated money to causes he agrees with? Has he volunteered his time to participate in community dialogues about the issues he cares about? Has he worked for his causes when the cameras are turned elsewhere? I don’t know the answer to that.

    If he never does anything except stand up during a televised game then we’ve seen an act of self-indulgence. He got plenty of attention and there are no negative consequences. If he lives out what he says he believes in with his time and talents and treasure, then I say, “Bravo” even though every fiber of my being disagrees with his action and political position.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Wally! I know many share the beliefs you expressed. He is a young man, and I have no doubt he will learn a lot from the consequences of his choice of expression. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

  10. This is all fascinating–Bret’s blog, the well written responses to the blog, let along Colin’s behavior and his articulation of his behavior. Everyone’s point is so well made and reading them is what makes it all so beautiful.

    1. For too long I took for granted how amazing it is to live in a country that allows me to believe and behave in such a way. I truly love how we can have the power of choice in the U.S. without being arrested, beaten, persecuted, etc.

    2. It is responses like Colin provided that is causing this dialogue, that provides us the opportunity to explore how the world looks through his eyes or through the eye’s of others. Even if our beliefs are not changed, his actions have cause most everyone to think hard about what they believe.

    3. Lastly, similar to most responses here, I support his right to do what he did. Perhaps juvenile or perhaps brilliant, he has brought attention to something that he must be passionate about. I am excited to see the “trickle down” outcome of his words.

    He has made many of us uncomfortable since so many do not think like him. I welcome the discomfort he has caused and challenge others to think hard, not just about his message, but what it means that he can deliver that message in any venue.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome back, Bill. Very well said. Concur with everything you said. Another thing about his behavior you will appreciate is that in a very real sense it has introduced a degree of chaos to an already complex issue. The system is exhibiting a predictable response to being shaken – strong forces at work to return things to the comfort of conformity. For people like you and me interested in complexity, there is another dimension to this situation. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Tony Cardinalli says:

    Thanks for opening up the discussion. A lot of people are invested in this guy, including myself, so I keep wondering this – was that leadership? If so, then I guess I’ll pass.


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Tony. He did what he thought was right. I would have made a different choice. I’m trying to understand his choice, and even if I disagree with his behavior, I choose to never reject the man. He is responsible for his choices; I for my response. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Tony Reply:

    He made a poor decision. He’s obviously frustrated with his career. If you want to understand his mindset, it is this -> he is being marginalized as an NFL quarterback. He doesn’t want to make the effort that is required to play on a professional level. He has a fixed mindset, and has never had to deal with adversity, so he blames everybody but himself.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Well, I’ve heard that view expressed before. Impressed you incorporate fixed mindset!! Thanks for sharing. Bret

  12. AD Harvey says:

    Hello all,

    I have read this blogpost and the comments with interest, and thanks are due to Bret Simmons for discussing this topic in a frank and admirable way, noting that whether or not one agrees with another person’s politics or actions, anger and being offended are not always the best nor only responses. I just wanted to weigh in regarding the notion expressed in several posts that veterans’ shedding blood in foreign wars is the reason why young men (or any young people, or any people) like Colin can express their opinions. I think that the reason that Americans can express their opinions is because that particular freedom is among the fundamental principles upon which the country was founded, and is one central idea that the founders agreed should define what it means to live in this then-new republic. They did not attach this principle nor any other of our freedoms to wars, fighting, militarism, interventions in other places, invasions, conquests, shedding blood for one’s country, fighting for a country’s interests militarily, or any other dimension of military action.

    Those millions of Americans who do not serve in the armed forces ALSO serve their country and make possible the freedoms of Americans. All Americans do so, by holding true to those fundamental principles. So, far from Colin’s protest being “un-American” or somehow dangerous for “our youth” to see, it seems that when anyone responds to his actions by being “offended” or “angry” (or, rather harshly telling Colin to “go to hell” for having views of his own that one might not agree with), that in itself is the action that betrays American ideas. The daily, consistent commitment to and upholding of American ideas is what keeps these ideas in place in our country, not just fighting in wars, or being part of the military, or serving one’s country directly in that or related ways. Refusing to grant freedom of expression to Colin in this case is itself an act of refusing Americanness, much more directly than his choice not to stand for the national anthem (which is a practice NOT put in place at the founding of our country, nor even one that has a clear origin or meaning. Freedom of expression, on the other hand, is absolutely fundamental to our whole country and what it means). Thanks for listening to this other take on the topic!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome. So very well said. Must say I am in total agreement. Thanks for sharing! Bret