Without question one of the all-time NBA greats turned-comedic-powerhouse/TV critic/social commentator Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has weighed in on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner”, arguing the Niners QB, “behaved in a highly patriotic manner.” From Monday’s Washington Post :
One of the ironies of the way some people express their patriotism is to brag about our freedoms, especially freedom of speech, but then brand as unpatriotic those who exercise this freedom to express dissatisfaction with the government’s record in upholding the Constitution.
We should admire those who risk personal gain in the service of promoting the values of their country. Both athletes are in fine company of others who have shown their patriotism in unconventional ways. In 1989, when a federal law prohibiting flag desecration went into effect, Vietnam Veterans burned the American flag as a protest to a law curbing the First Amendment. Their argument was that they fought for the freedoms in the Constitution, not a piece of cloth, and to curtail those freedoms was an insult to their sacrifice. Ironically, the original purpose of flag desecration laws between 1897 and 1932 wasn’t to prevent political dissent, but to prevent the use of flag imagery for political campaigns and in advertising.
What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.