I’m With Kap: Why Punishing the Right to His Free Speech is Wrong


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Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, attempts a pass in Super Bowl XLVII

In 2016, he kneeled at an NFL game during the National Anthem, and through that move, sparked a wave of controversy and conversation. Colin Kaepernick utilized his First Amendment rights to peacefully protest against police brutality, yet the backlash he faced was swift and immense. Today he still deals with backlash for defending his beliefs. He was blacklisted from the NFL, and despite his talent, has not been hired to play on a team. People started burning and damaging Nike products after Nike made Kaepernick their spokesperson. However, in response, celebrities including Ava DuVernay and Common boycotted the latest Super Bowl to protest the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. The hashtag #ImWithKap went viral on Twitter. I’m here to say I’m with Kap too.

According to the Bill of Rights the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment protects citizens’ right to protest and petition as long as it doesn’t instigate violence or harm anyone. Although Kaepernick has the right to kneel and can’t be punished legally, he was still left unsigned by NFL teams due to his protest. Even if it wasn’t a direct punishment issued by the NFL, it’s still a form of punishment that I, among others, believe he shouldn’t have faced. Kaepernick has a First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Denying him, and anyone else, that right as Americans is more disrespectful to our country than a protest that people consider disrespectful.

Despite popular belief, Colin Kaepernick’s intention was not to disrespect the flag and the country, and I believe he didn’t. He kneeled to protest against the unnecessary killings of many African-Americans by the police.

“People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody,” Kaepernick said in a post-game interview with NFL Media. “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.”

Kneeling is a sign of respect. In my experience, when a player gets injured during a game, we all take a knee and wait to see if they’re okay or being taken care of. Nate Boyer, a former NFL player and a veteran of the United States Army, even talked to Colin Kaeparnick and suggested that he kneel instead of sitting. He explained his reasoning in an episode of HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.

“Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect,” said Boyer.

Kaepernick affirmed that his intention was not to disrespect the flag, country, or the people who fight for it. Colin Kaepernick basically lost his job as a professional football player for the NFL because he was protesting police brutality. With no intention to disrespect the American flag or the people who fight for it, he knew he was risking losing his job for protesting. It is our right, by law, to kneel during the National Anthem because it is a form of peaceful protest and not get punished for it. Yet we still are vulnerable to punishment and shamed for not being patriotic when in fact punishing us for kneeling goes against the Bill of Rights.