The conservative world has been in an uproar for the past few weeks in response to San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem. In several of the preseason games, he remained seated during the National Anthem in protest of the inequality he sees symbolized by the American flag. In a statement made to NFL Media during an exclusive interview, Kaepernick stated, “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 on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
It seems that Kaepernick has started a trend among athletes. From lesbian U.S. soccer midfielder Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the anthem to the entire Seattle Seahawks NFL team planning on imitating Kaepernick, athletes have publicly banded together in their common protest of symbols that this country holds dear. Many conservatives have flamed these people, berating them on their lack of patriotism and arguing that the owners of the teams must suppress this sort of behavior. I have a slightly different message for these athletes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely disgusted by their lack of patriotism. So many brave men and women have died to protect the freedom to exercise our God-given rights, and our flag and National Anthem symbolize their sacrifice. We should ALWAYS honor what they’ve given, even if we don’t agree with it.
However, even though I believe we should be patriotic and respect these symbols, I also am a Constitutional conservative. This means that I firmly believe that the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment applies not only to things I agree with, but to things I disagree with as well. Colin Kaepernick and his litany of athletic imitators are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Conservatives, if we only support freedom of speech when we agree with it, then we don’t really support freedom of speech at all. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”
In order to truly keep America functioning and tyranny at bay, we must be supportive of free speech in whatever form it takes. I don’t agree with hateful and nasty speech, but I will fight for your right to be awful all day long. We must take the same attitude when it comes to people openly disrespecting our flag and our National Anthem. They have the freedom to say what they would like, and we have the freedom to stop watching and supporting them.
We put up such a fight when the Left attempts to limit freedom of speech-why should those on the Right do the same thing under the guise of patriotism? Nationalism is a terrible reason to advocate for the removal of someone’s rights. If I impart nothing else, remember that it is fine and reasonable to completely disagree with someone, but it is dangerous when you advocate for that person to be kept from saying such things.