On August 26, NFL 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick put a lot on the line when he refused to stand for the national anthem. He explained, “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. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Almost immediately Colin was slammed for being unpatriotic, receiving racist taunts and death threats.
But as police in Tusla, Charlotte, Cleveland and other cities have continued to murder Black people, support for Kaepernick has grown, and the form of protest he initiated is spreading: Over 45 NFL players have taken a stand on game day, 14 WNBA players during playoffs, star soccer player and representative of the US national team Megan Rapinoe took a knee, and Olympic Gold medal swimmer Anthony Ervin raised a fist as the anthem played during a meet in Brazil.
Very significantly, youth have joined the wave of resistance in at least 37 high schools, 17 colleges and two youth leagues in 30 states around the country. We give a special salute to them!
In the face of death threats, the entire Beaumont (Texas) Bulls youth football team and their coach continued to refuse to stand for the national anthem, September 17. (Photo via twitter/@Shaun King). See also “Texas Youth Football Team Refuses to Stand for the Anthem Despite Death Threats.”
Before the college football game between University of North Carolina and Pittsburgh, North Carolina fans and band members hold fists in the air during the anthem. More photos here.
Welcomed and unexpected support has also come from military veterans and even active duty personnel using the hashtag #veteransforkaepernick. So the attacks on Kaepernick for being “anti-military” are being turned around, fueling debate over what it means to serve in the military of a country that is based on white supremacy.
One active duty military member is facing jail time for her stance. Navy Specialist 2nd Class Janaye Ervin took to Facebook to explain why she followed the example of hundreds of people who have protested racial injustices during the national anthem. “I made the conscious decision to not stand for the Star Spangled Banner because I feel like a hypocrite, singing about land of the free when, I know that only applies to some Americans,” Ervin said.
These actions pose urgent questions to millions about the nature of America, and they have the potential to seriously undermine the myth that America is about “freedom and democracy,” a myth that justifies every invasion, regime change, torture chamber, and drone strike the U.S. commits around the world. What is the connection between police murder with impunity here and murder for empire in other countries, and why should people fight for this country? It is up to everyone who opposes state-sanctioned murder of Black and brown people here and around the world to realize that potential through our actions now.
Think back to what Muhammed Ali said when he refused orders to go to Vietnam: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so called negro people in Loiusville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights.” Think of the impact his words – and actions – had on a generation.
Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks is setting a great example for all of us. He skipped a team dinner at the U.S. Military Academy because he is against war.
We need much more of this! Now is the time to jump into this debate and bring to people the reality of what the US does all over the world: the police terror, the torture, the spying, the attacks on immigrants. We call on people, especially students and young people, to join in support of Colin Kaepernick and sit down for the rag themselves, and support young people when they do.
Read these 10 reasons to sit down for “the rag.” We particularly appreciate number 8: “Because the US murdered 3 million people in during the Vietnam war and has killed over 1.3 million people in the Middle East since 9/11.”
YOU are needed to help spread this message to everyone, especially high school students, by supporting the We Are Not Your Soldiers tour that is reaching into high schools around the country. Military veterans are talking to students about why they shouldn’t join the military. Invite them, share this with teachers you know, donate to this project.
What do you think is the significance of all of this and what we need to do now? Let us know!