When I heard the news that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem in an NFL preseason game on Friday night, I was immediately angry.
As I watched with my kids, I called him an idiot, unpatriotic and a poor example. As true as those labels might be, as justified as my anger was, I missed an opportune chance to help my kids learn a valuable lesson.
I should have explained why the National Anthem matters and why Colin Kaepernick’s actions do not.
Standing for the National Anthem is important in any context – my kids need to know it. They should understand that, although it is within their unalienable rights not to do so, all Americans should stand when this hymn is played.
My kids are too young to understand what exactly patriotism means. They certainly do, though, know what gratitude is.
Standing for the National Anthem is the simplest way to say thank you to those that have made such a gesture possible.
We should stand for the troops that have, and continue to, sacrifice so that we can exercise free will. We should stand up for the families that our troops leave behind as they put our flag first.
Rising to your feet to salute such sacrifices during the National Anthem has nothing to do with ignoring, downplaying or denying times when America could have been better.
I should talk to my kids about those times as well – the times of slavery and of struggling for suffrage. My kids need to know about times of racial turbulence and of the impact of poverty in the midst of our relative prosperity. There is no running from the smears of the past and struggles of the present.
My kids should know that Kaepernick’s seated protest should not matter. Looking to multi-millionaire for social guidance has to stop.
If I didn’t know there were groups feeling oppressed in America today, I certainly do not need to seek out any sports or Hollywood star, to enlighten me. I’d rather not have the person talking about the oppressed in America be jumping into their luxury sedan after their press conference is over.
Instead, my kids and I should be looking for real experts to illuminate social issues. Social activism is banter until there are proposed, real solutions by those with the initiative to take on the fight.
If Kaepernick is so passionate about this topic, he has the forum to explain how each of us could help or how he has done so himself. The message has power if delivered by someone in the game, not by someone silently protesting from the sidelines.
Just like Kaepernick, my approach was wrong. Unlike the pro quarterback, though, I have a chance to redeem myself – to teach my kids a few lessons that will persist.
My kids should understand why we stand, remove our hats and hold our hearts during the National Anthem – no matter what.
My kids should never confuse fame with significance.
My kids should never highlight problems in the absence of proposing solutions.