What Should We Think About Colin Kaepernick Refusing to Stand During the National Anthem?

Colin_kaepernickIf you pay much attention to sports or news in general, it’d would’ve been hard to miss the story that’s surrounded San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick over the last several days. At a preseason game last Friday night, Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem. Here’s how he later explained his decision:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”*

Those are provocative comments, to be sure. And not surprisingly, they elicited strong responses, both for and against. Media personalities weighed in, as did former teammates, various other NFL players and coaches, athletes from other sports, military personnel and their parents, police officers, and so on. Maybe you did, too.

So what should we think about Colin Kaepernick?

I’m usually none-too-shy about offering my opinion about way too many things. But as I’ve observed the reaction to Kaepernick and kept mulling it over in my mind, I can’t help but think that this is an excellent example of a situation that calls less for “hot takes” and more for reflection and wisdom. With that in mind, I’m going to limit what I write here to asking several questions Christians might do well to think through in regard to this situation. The point isn’t that you or I shouldn’t form or express an opinion, but that we should try to do those things well. (And keep in mind this list isn’t exhaustive.)

  1. What was your initial response when you heard about Kaepernick’s actions? Why did you feel that way?
  2. What does the national anthem mean to you? How does that inform your reaction to what Kaepernick did?
  3. Assuming you aren’t a member of the following groups, how do you think your opinion might change if you were: (a) African-American, (b) a member of the military or a gold star parent, (c) a police officer.
  4. How would your view of the situation change if Kaepernick had decided to sit in protest of another significant social issue, like abortion?
  5. The biblical appraisal of both human beings and the world in which we live leads us to expect both goodness and sin/evil/failures everywhere we look. How should that inform our view of our country? Of police? Of Colin Kaepernick? What are the limitations and dangers associated with making broad evaluations of all these things/people?
  6. How much does it matter that Kaepernick’s actions inevitably involve the rest of his team?
  7. Professional baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson once wrote: “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world.” How does that inform your view of the current situation?
  8. What if any difference does it make that Kaepernick is a well-compensated professional football player?
  9. What if any difference does it make that Kaepernick has a mixed racial heritage and was adopted by a white family at six weeks old?
  10. If we value both freedom of expression and showing respect and consideration to others, how do we determine a way forward when these things conflict?
  11. How should I react to people who form a different opinion than I do about this situation?


*For a full transcript of an interview Kaepernick gave to the press after the game, click here.

One Comment

  1. Michelle Muehring said:

    Thank you for the reminder; I could always stand to talk less and focus on Christ more!

Leave a Reply