Kaepernick Got It Wrong While Exercising His Constitutional Right

The 49ers' quarterback has already apparently forgotten what Steelers left tackle and former U.S. Army Captain and Afghanistan veteran Alejandro Villanueva has vowed never to forget.

I’ll say this much for Colin Kaepernick: He suddenly has a lot of people thinking and talking about America and being an American, and that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, at least as many people are thinking and talking even more about Kaepernick.

It’s his right as an American to protest, to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

But there’s a much better time and place to exercise that right than prior to a football game during the national anthem.

When you sit down rather than stand up it becomes at least as much about disrespect as it does dissent.

And when that happens, the message risks being lost in translation.

As an NFL quarterback, Kaepernick’s access to a bully pulpit far exceeds that of the average citizen.

He could have chosen any number of ways to state what he maintained “has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention.”

A press conference, appearances on radio or television, even the leading of an organized rally or demonstration would have been much more effective alternatives.

Instead, Kaepernick chose to target the national anthem and the flag, an action that suggested more spoiled brat than social activist.

He violated no NFL or San Francisco 49ers protocol in the process.

But he wouldn’t have gotten away with that crap with the Los Angeles Rams.

“It’s a respect thing,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher emphasized to his team during an episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the one that detailed the Rams being educated during training camp as to how they were expected to act during the national anthem.

“It’s a self-respect thing, it’s a respect for your teammates, it’s a respect for this game and it’s respect for this country,” Fisher continued. “It’s an opportunity to realize how lucky you are.”

You can have issues and still not lose sight of all of the above.

Kaepernick’s outrage over “police brutality” apparently trumps all, which is sad.

Some of the specifics of his discontent, subsequently, are downright offensive.

“You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist,” Kaepernick maintained according to an ESPN.com transcript of an interview session held in the wake of his anthem protest.

“Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

If Kaepernick really believes that, perhaps he should call someone packing a curling iron when and if he ever finds himself in need of protection out on the street.

That’s not to suggest Kaepernick doesn’t have legitimate concerns regarding serious issues that desperately need to be addressed.

But he’s doing it wrong.

And he’s already apparently forgotten what Steelers left tackle and former U.S. Army Captain and Afghanistan veteran Alejandro Villanueva has vowed never to forget.

“I don’t have the right answer for everything,” Villanueva said. “I just know that I’m very thankful to be an American. I will stand very proudly and I will sing every single line in the national anthem every single time I hear it … I recognize that I have to be very thankful to be in this country … Just by being an American I’ve won three lotteries.

“I agree that America’s not perfect. I agree that there are a lot of issues with minorities in this country and I agree that we should do something about it. But I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down when the national anthem of a country that provided you freedom (is played)  … If he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it’s going to send the wrong message.”

Kaepernick said he isn’t finished yet, that “there are things in the works … that I’ll talk about as we get closer to those days.”

We’ll see where he takes it from here and how effective his protests can become.

This much, at least, Kaepernick got right:

“We have to come together. We have to unite. We have to unify and make a change.”

Standing alone to drive that point home, unfortunately, comes off as more divisive than inspiring.

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Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section