Photo by Casey Gomez

This weekend, what was initially just a drop in the bucket became a deluge when many NFL teams and other professional athletes knelt or locked arms during the national anthem as a form of protest. This coming together was sparked by a series of comments from the president regarding the continued protests of many NFL players that began with Colin Kaepernick last season.

Many people have accused athletes like Kaepernick of being disrespectful or unpatriotic, while many others have supported their right to protest. From veterans to the common people this issue has become huge; however, the difference in opinion could not be simpler. It all stems from the difference between nationalism
and patriotism.

Per Merriam-Webster dictionary, nationalism means “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.”

On the other hand, patriotism is defined as “love or devotion to one’s country.” Most of the arguments against the protests and for the boycott of these leagues and teams is that these players are disrespecting the anthem, the flag and those who fight to protect it. Unfortunately, this view directly contradicts what the players have said, and the entire purpose of playing the national anthem at sporting events.

First, the players, Kaepernick specifically, have made it clear that he and others are protesting racial tensions between black people and police. In an exclusive interview with NFL Media last season Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish of me to look the other way.”

Kaepernick’s thoughts aren’t disrespectful, they bring up legitimate points. As of recently, race relations have been high with many cases of unarmed black people being killed by police officers.

Unfortunately, the arguments against Kaepernick do not stop there, he and other athletes are told to simply “do their job” instead of making a statement. This plays into my second point about the national anthem at sporting events. Throughout Europe and most of the rest of the world, national anthems are only played before games involving the national teams of countries. In the United States, however, the national anthem is played before every single sporting event.

This tradition began during the height of World War I in the MLB. Since then it has been a staple of many games, but is it nationalistic or patriotic?

Unfortunately, the anthem has been twisted into a nationalistic piece of propaganda by many citizens. Too often, the anthem is seen as representing and confirming that the United States is the greatest country on earth, when in reality, it should be a sober reminder to everyone in the country of what we have sacrificed to get to this point.

All people complaining that Kaepernick and others are disrespecting the country are the ones disrespecting what this country represents. This country is a melting pot of many different cultures. Some of those cultures, specifically minority cultures, are being disrespected and judged by many citizens, and especially police. From Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray, there are a disproportionate amount of cases of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The people claiming that Kaepernick is being disrespectful are, in turn, disrespecting those innocent people who have died by failing to stand for them.

Right now, the citizens of the United States need to look around and decide if we are going to be nationalistic or patriotic. A patriot can love their country but understand the need for change. A nationalist will continue to support a system that is in need of
adaptation.

In the end, it does not matter if Kaepernick and other professional athletes are right. What truly matters is that their voices should be respected and heard, not attacked and put down.

  • Irritated_Alum

    This article vividly illustrates the pomposity of the average (and yes, really quite privileged) American progressive college student. As a proud Tech alum and military officer, your blind adherence to the progressive “America-is-irredeemably racist” narrative, in the absence of any corroborating evidence or thorough analysis, makes me wonder whether my alma mater’s standards have slipped.

    You expound at length about the difference between “patriotism” and “nationalism” and their respective definitions. Then, you predictably claim that the “protesters are the REAL patriots,” and offer up Kaepernick as your prime example. Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Kaepernick’s supposed patriotism.

    Kaepernick wore a Castro shirt and went on to speak positively about Castro’s Cuba and their peachy investments in healthcare and literacy, missing the forest of the absolute tyranny of the Cuban communist regime for the trees of a few extra points on the literacy rate. Leaving aside the fact that Castro and Guevara were very, very disappointed the Soviets didn’t end up actually launching their Cuba-based missiles at the United States, Castro’s Cuba has a record on race that wouldn’t exactly live up to the standards of MLK. This goes for almost every single former communist country, as well: do you honestly think that Cuba, North Korea, China, Eastern Europe, or Russia are less racist than the United States? If you do, actually travel more, and do better to not to get fooled by decades-old communist propaganda characterizing communist states as racially equal and the U.S. as irredeemably racist. No one who speaks positively of a regime that advocated the nuclear bombardment of the U.S. and wears a trendy Che t-shirt should rightly be regarded as a “patriot.”

    I wonder what the men of the all-black 54th Massachusetts, who fought under and for that American flag and all its promises, and who were slaughtered by the confederacy, would think about Mr. Kaepernick’s ploy. Do you think that the all-black Tuskegee Airmen, crack aviators with an incredible combat record against Nazis (the real kind, not the kind Anitfa LARPs against), would approve of this protest trampling on their sacrifice? I’m no expert, but I would imagine the America of 1864 and 1942 are considerably more racist than the America of 2017, and they still fought under her flag.

    This whole article is progressive misdirection at its finest. It’s truly incredible that you can construe that people disrespecting the flag and the anthem are more patriotic than men like Alejandro Villanueva. But then again, you have the same ideology that declares there are at least 57 genders, so I can’t say I’m too surprised.

    As for your claims that America is overcome by the insidious grip of nefarious “white supremacy,”(don’t look now, but no major urban area has been controlled by a white republican since the 50’s) submitted here without any links to evidence, why don’t you peruse this law review article, written by a black man (just because I know you won’t take any argument seriously unless the author has the correct skin pigmentation to have an opinion):

    http://www.nyulawreview.org/sites/default/files/pdf/NYULawReview-87-1-Forman_Jr.pdf

    This is a fun piece that pokes a few holes in every (white) progressive’s favorite documentary, “The New Jim Crow.” And for a more in depth view on to actually interpret crime statistics, try this:

    https://www.city-journal.org/html/what-criminologists-dont-say-and-why-15328.html

    And how exactly is this protest going to work out for the Democrats? This is “bigly” unpopular with the public, and draws more people into Trump’s camp. Furthermore, you ipso facto slander those normal citizens who do stand for the anthem as “racist” because of their opposition to these protests. Remind me: just how exactly did claiming the electorate is racist, sexist , and generally “deplorable” work out for you in 2016? Believe it or not, very little people remain in this country who actively judge people’s character on the basis of melanin content, and just as black people don’t like to be called inferior, white people, who are generally not racist, don’t really like being called that either.

    Kaepernick has every right to protest. The first amendment is pretty great! (Oops, I shouldn’t exhibit that much pride in my country, I might be a scary nationalist…) But just because you have a right, does not make you right. And in this case, it makes you look foolish.

    • brian_ATL

      Irritated Alum,

      I think you need to take a deep breath and count to ten. Mr. Miles’ column really isn’t that inflammatory. Also, I think your habit of putting quotes around an inflammatory statement that isn’t attributed to anyone makes it look like you read a totally different article. For example you quoted: “protesters are the REAL patriots.” Mr. Miles’ never said this or, in my opinion, even came close to suggesting this.

      • Irritated_Alum

        I’ll take a deep breath and count to ten while you reread the piece’s title. “The NFL’s Patriotic Protests” pretty obviously implies that the protesters are patriotic, and that therefore opposition to the protests makes one unpatriotic. It’s not at all a big leap to arrive at this conclusion from both the title and content of the piece.

        If you’d like to take your cues on what constitutes moral patriotic behavior from the NFL and a few of its oh-so-highly-educated players, that’s your business. Personally, I don’t think lectures from multimillionaires with little more than a high school education (and middle school levels of historical understanding) and an organization that has actively covered up domestic violence of its players and the devastating medical consequences of the sport have much legitimacy.

        And it really “isn’t that inflammatory?” Sure, from your urban college bubble, I’m sure that it isn’t. However, Middle America disagrees quite strongly with you. Supremely unqualified Republican candidates will (continue to) laugh all the way to the white house while the Left keeps pulling these stunts.