As has been widely publicized, Kaepernick initiated this protest by sitting down during the national anthem prior to a preseaosn game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick subsequently kneeled, along with teammate Eric Reid, during the national anthem prior to the 49ers next preseason game. Kaepernick stated he altered his posture so as to be more respectful to the U.S. military and all those who have fought for the freedoms of all Americans. He has also recently stated that he will donate all proceeds from his skyrocketing jersey sales back to communities in need.
However, Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, has spoken publicly for the first time regarding Colin Kaepernick’s continuing protest against social injustice and racial inequality. And he doesn’t seem to agree with Kaepernick. Per NFL Network:
“Well my personal thoughts are… I support our players when they want to see change in society, and we don’t live in a perfect society. We live in an imperfect society. On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that. I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.
“These are all important things for us, and that moment is a very important moment. So, I don’t necessarily agree with what he is doing. We encourage our players to be respectful in that time and I like to think of it as a moment where we can unite as a country. And that’s what we need more, and that’s what I think football does – it unites our country. So I would like to see us focusing on our similarities and trying to bring people together.
“Players have a platform, and it’s his right to do that. We encourage them to be respectful and it’s important for them to do that.
“I think it’s important if they see things they want to change in society, and clearly we have things that can get better in society, and we should get better. But we have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great.”
In other words, the NFL encourages players to use their platform and speak out against injustices they see in society, but in a respectful manner. Colin Kaepernick is not being respectful because he’e not being patriotic.
Conversely, the NFL is so patriotic they’re willing to take money from the U.S. Department of Defense to stage patriotic and “heartwarming” tributes at games. “Among the paid events the report flags as questionable were on-field color guard presentations during the national anthem, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, [and] the unfurling of a giant flag by members of the military”. The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons took more money than any other professional sports franchise. From 2012 to 2015, the Falcons received $879,000 from the Georgia Army National Guard for assorted patriotic promotions. NFL franchises the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens each received at least $500,000 for similar activities over that span.
While the NFL was not alone among professional sports leagues to engage in “paid patriotism” and the NFL denied any impropriety on behalf of it’s teams in taking such money, the Congressional report on these marketing efforts stated,
“Taxpayers — not the teams — paid for patriotism and VIP perks. It is time to allow major sports teams’ legitimate tributes to our soldiers to shine with national pride rather than being cast under the pallor of marketing gimmicks paid for by American taxpayers.
“Americans deserve the ability to assume that tributes for our men and women in military uniform are genuine displays of national pride, which many are, rather than taxpayer-funded DOD marketing gimmicks.”
This past May the NFL agreed to reimburse U.S. taxpayers over $720,000 which had been used by NFL teams as part of this “paid patriotism”. Goodell stated that an NFL audit of team’s finances uncovered $723,734 which “may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts. These recruitment efforts are intended to be separate and apart from the NFL’s longstanding support of the service members and families who have dedicated their lives to serving this great country”.
That is to say it’s okay for the NFL to use taxpayer money to recruit for the armed services just not to put on public tributes. So the NFL can use taxpayer money to engender patriotism in others but cannot force patriotism on them.
Meanwhile Colin Kaepernick is pledging to donate his own money to help those in need and to use his actions and his voice to bring needed attention to societal issues in America which prevent the United States from being all it can be. Can Kaepernick really be more patriotic?