On Wednesday, President Barack Obama was asked a question about Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem during a CNN town hall with members of America’s armed forces community.. He echoed his original sentiments that Kaepernick has a right to protest and he’s thrilled about the conversation he’s bringing forward, but he added some additional ones tonight. At the town hall, the POTUS wanted the San Francisco quarterback to think about families of the victims killed in the line of duty.
“Sometimes out of these controversies, we start getting into a conversation, and I want everybody to listen to each other,” Obama said. “So I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing.”
LeBron James did something similar earlier this week. James explained why it’d be “scary ass situation” for his son to be pulled over by the police but also made sure to mention “not all police officers are bad” and “all lives do matter.” LeBron has a history of public activism, wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt for Eric Garner, a hoodie for Trayvon Martin, and recently put up $41 million to send kids from Ohio to college.
Still, I’m tired of the double talk.
It’s unnerving to watch people fumble all over themselves in an effort to make sure they don’t offend anybody. There isn’t a “right” and “wrong” side of police brutality. There are people who do the beating and the people who get beat. One side is protected by the law and the other side is the victim of those laws.
Kaepernick has made it crystal clear his kneeling for the national anthem is strictly against police brutality and has zero to do with military. In fact, the #VeteransForKaepernick hashtag shows he has the support of a large number of folks within the armed services. The idea Kaepernick is somehow taking away from the sacrifices of those who fight for America is a clear case of conflating an issue to dilute the message. Obama aligning himself with that rhetoric is alarming.
If these people really gave a damn about the military, some might think they’d take an issue with the NFL. Stephen A. Smith let the cat out of the bag when he reported the NFL didn’t mandate players to stand for the national anthem until 2009. Prior to that year, they spent the national anthem inside of their locker rooms. Smith reported that more than $10 million paid to the NFL was the reason for the policy change.
“Players were moved to the field during the anthem as a marketing strategy to make them look more patriotic. Smith says the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. National Guard paid the NFL more than $10 million combined to pull the move.”
If anybody really cared about how the troops felt about Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem, why didn’t anybody ask them what they felt when they found out the NFL took a check to look more patriotic? How does this continue to be an issue about the flag and not why Kaepernick is kneeling in the first place?
The American flag means many things to many people, but it’s becoming increasingly problematic to sell the idea the flag only belongs to veterans. My friend, Vann Newkirk II of The Atlantic, captured this sentiment when he tweeted “I’m just generally not fond of the idea that service members have more claim to the flag than the people who shed blood so I can vote.”
Combat veterans fighting wars at both home and abroad weren’t the only people who died in the name of America’s freedoms. There were hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of Black people who died on American soil in order for me to type my thoughts on this website, too. Colin Kaepernick, and by proxy, myself, have just as much right to that flag as the people who joined the military to fight for what the flag should represent.
I’m disappointed in Barack Obama. There’s no expectation that America’s first Black president, during the last few months of his term, would turn into Malcolm X. All the same, it’s absolutely baffling to watch him conflate what Kaepernick is doing in any way, shape, or form with the American military. He’s better than that.
At least, I thought he was.