In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a football fan. This explains why it is only now, over a year after Colin Kaepernick took his infamous knee during the national anthem, that I am bothering to address this topic.
For purposes of clarity and simplicity, I will refer to the act of kneeling during the national anthem as “Kaepernickism” and those players who engage in this act as “Kaepernickists.”
(1) Whatever the subjective intentions of individual Kaepernickists, Kaepernickism, like every act, has its own intention, its own internal logic. In this case, whether they intend this or not, Kaepernickists do in fact assume an adversarial stance against that country whose anthem it is that they refuse to honor.
The anthem, like the flag, represents to most Americans America itself.
In short, this action strikes tens and tens of millions of Americans (over 70%, according to polls) as “unpatriotic,” anti-American.
And this is an eminently legitimate reading of the situation—if, as most Americans believe, the anthem and flag represent, not just the American government, but, much more importantly, that historically extended project spanning centuries and generations that Americans recognize as their country.
(2) Of course, Kaepernickists deny that they are anti-American. They insist that the object of their protest is much more specific than America itself. That object is “police brutality” toward American blacks.
That police are roaming the countryside looking for black males to gun down is a fiction of the first order. Nor is there a shred of evidence to substantiate, but much to negate, even the thesis that blacks are shot by police more frequently than are their white counterparts. However, even if this thesis was true, a symbolic repudiation of the country, besides being wildly offensive to most Americans who see it as anti-American, amounts as well to the ultimate non sequitur.
If it is injustice on the part of some police departments against blacks to which Kaepernickists wish to draw the nation’s attention, would it not make infinitely better sense than defying a national symbol like the flag to instead focus their indignation upon those cities and/or states in which these injustices, particularly those high-profile injustices, are said to have happened?
That their refusal to stand for the anthem is logically irrelevant to their indignation against “police brutality” can be gotten readily enough by way of any number of examples:
College tuition is a big problem because it rises at a faster rate than that of inflation. Therefore, students and former students everywhere who are struggling to repay loans should refuse to stand for the national anthem.
Both absolutely and relative to their numbers in the population, blacks prey on members of other races far more frequently than the reverse. Thus, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, in order to bring attention to this phenomenon, should refuse to stand for the anthem.
Women in America tend to live longer than men. Therefore, men should refuse to stand for the anthem.
Drug abuse has resulted in the destruction of lives in communities all throughout the country. Hence, those of us who are upset by this should refuse to stand for the anthem.
We could continue endlessly. The point should be clear: If it is really just police brutality toward blacks that concerns Kaepernickists, then, since police are always the police of some local principality or state, it is, literally, illogical to demonstrate against a national symbol.
(3) This last criticism may miss the mark if, and only if, it isn’t police that Kaepernickists wish to protest but, as many of us have long suspected, America itself.
In (1), it was assumed that Kaepernickists are truthful or sincere when they insist that it is not America, but police brutality, that they protest when “taking a knee.” However, the logic of the act inescapably betrays a sentiment that can only be read by millions as anti-American.
Here, in contrast, the argument is that Kaepernickists are insincere. Their intention is actually to indict America for what they take to be intolerable injustice.
More specifically, it is white America on which they set their sights.
In other words, the theatrics in which mostly black professional football players are now engaging are designed to further the all too familiar narrative, especially in vogue at this moment as statues and monuments to historical white figures have come under fire in places throughout the US, that American blacks remain victims of the same white oppression to which they’ve been subjected for centuries.
Kaepernickists who kneel during the national anthem want to signal that, their standing as multi-millionaires aside, they too are down with the struggle against—what else?—“racism.”
Police brutality against blacks, whether the officers in question are black, white, or other, is treated by all concerned with “social justice” as but one more manifestation of “white racism.”
Summary of (1)-(3):
So, Kaepernickism is anti-American—whether individual Keapernickists intend this or not. If they do not intend to be anti-American, then they are illogical, for it makes no sense to defy a national symbol when it is a particular problem with which you are (allegedly) concerned. On the other hand, if Kaepernickists are not acting illogically, then they know exactly what they are doing and intend to indict, not any specific police departments, but America itself.
Two final remarks are in order here.
First, Kaepernickists are preeminent virtue-signalers.They have sacrificed nothing in taking a knee during the national anthem. If, though, they were truly serious about taking a stand against the oppression of blacks, then these mostly black millionaires should abandon the game of football, a sport that was invented by whites and, for no small part of its history, for whites. By the lights of our Social Justice crusaders, this makes football…“racist!”
Second, until and unless those millions of Americans—including “conservative” commentators—who purport to be offended by Kaepernickism actually boycott the NFL, I’m afraid that they will be suspected of virtue-signaling as well.
To these I say: If you are genuinely offended by the anti-Americanism of Kaepernickism, then bring its proponents to their knees once and for all by freezing their check and economically crippling their employer.