Debate continues over anthem protests

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest that has sparked debate across the nation


Courtesy of Paladin Justice

Colin Kaepernick (7) started a kneeling protest that has inspired many, just as it has angered many.

Nicholas Tirella, Editor-in-Chief, Scottsdale Chronicle

In an effort to respond to the much-discussed alleged police brutality against African Americans in the United States, one man decided to take a stand – or rather, take a knee – in protest.

Colin Kaepernick is a National Football League quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He made headlines during a preseason game when spectators saw that he was not standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” According to NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo, Kaepernick had actually been protesting earlier in the preseason, but went unnoticed because he was not in uniform or playing those games.

Kaepernick’s gesture has rippled throughout the U.S. and caused debate as to whether it is right or wrong to not stand during the national anthem. Kaepernick explained to Steve Whyche in an exclusive interview his stance on the kneeling and how he does not let the sport he plays get in the way.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “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.”

What started as a one-man protest has caught fire as others have joined in his protest, from other NFL players to U.S. college and high school student athletes.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”


Other players in the NFL have joined Kaepernick in protest, from Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who took a knee during their season opener, to Miami Dolphins players Arian Foster, Jelani Jenkins, Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas on Sept. 11. The protest that Kaepernick started has spread through the U.S., not only in the NFL but even down to high school sports. In a New York Times article “Protest Started by Colin Kaepernick Spreads to High School Students,” players on several football teams have taken a knee during the national anthem. The high schools include Garfield High School in Seattle, Wash.; Castlemont High in Oakland, Calif.; Woodrow Wilson High in Camden, N.J.; and Mission High in San Francisco, Calif.

Marine veteran Ian Sarembock, an SCC student who enlisted in 2011 with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, believes that high school athletes do not understand what they are doing with regard to their protesting.

“As far as high school and younger, they don’t know shit, let’s be real,” Sarembock said. “They’re 16, 17 years old. All they know about life is what they’ve seen in video games and TV. Everyone is that way, including myself, and when you’re young, you’re ignorant, that’s the way it is. So they see something, they want to be cool, they’ll do it.”

Marcus Jensen, an SCC student who played minor league baseball from 2009 to 2014, wondered whether high school athletes are protesting for a reason or just doing it to fit in.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing but I do question if it’s genuine or they’re legitimately trying to make a statement,” Jensen said. “There’s a reason behind why Kaepernick did it, is there a reason behind why these high schoolers are doing it. So that’s what I question.”

Sean Hamilton, another student at SCC, believes that the protests are a good thing. Hamilton said that the more people that get involved, the more likely it is that a national conversation can take place.

“I think it’s good,” Hamilton said. “The more people involved, the better. It’s something we need to talk about…the way certain groups of people are being treated by police and otherwise. It’s a lot of systemic racism in the country and I think if we don’t talk about it, it’ll never get fixed.”


People who have spoken out have mixed emotions as to the outcry started by Kaepernick’s gesture. Jensen acknowledged Kaepernick’s right to do what he did and stressed the importance of voicing one’s thoughts.

“He has that right as a person,” Jensen said. “I think we’re all entitled to be able to voice our opinion when it comes to anything. The fact that he’s doing it the way he is in terms of it being non-violent, I think that’s a good thing.”

Sarembock spoke about how America gives one the chance to speak out on issues, and while he does not like how Kaepernick has chosen to protest, he respects that he can do it.

“Do I agree with him stepping on it? Hell no,” Sarembock said. “But would I stop someone from doing it? No. That is their right to do it.

“I have no problem with it. One of the great things about this country is you’re not forced to love it, you’re not being held at gunpoint saying ‘you better be patriotic’…I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for him to do, I just don’t agree with it but it’s his right to do it,” Sarembock said.

Six-year Army veteran and SCC student Kevin Eberson does not like how Kaepernick is protesting but understands the decision and explained it through the frame of what he believes the United States flag stands for.

“That flag represents his freedom to protest, freedom of speech and he’s exercising his freedoms and I’m all for that, that’s exactly what it’s there for so you can have those opportunities to protest,” Eberson said. “The only part that I’m upset about is the way he’s going about it, it’s just not effective. If he truly wants to have a resolution to all these issues he speaks of, him kneeling isn’t gonna get that done.”


The Scottsdale Chronicle asked the people interviewed in this story if they would stand or sit for the national anthem if given the opportunity. Sarembock explained why he would stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” and drew upon what the United States has offered his family.

“I’d stand my ass off, of course I would,” Sarembock said. “There’s a few veterans that wouldn’t, but you know, they’re just everyday people that have their own opinions just like everyone else, but I would stand mostly for what this country offered my family, coming from a family that moved to the United States from South Africa, and as well as for what the United States did for my grandparents, and specifically my grandmother when she was in the Holocaust in Poland and how the United States brought her over after the Holocaust.

“I definitely am grateful for the United States, it’s definitely to some people ‘a beacon of light,’ even though it’s not the brightest, it’s a little dim right now, but still the brightest in the world,” Sarembock said.

Hamilton would kneel for the national anthem and supports what Kaepernick is doing.

“I wouldn’t have been the one that started this like Colin Kaepernick is but I would definitely be willing to support him by sitting next to him and showing my support for what he believes in,” Hamilton said.

Jensen would stand for the national anthem, but he respects what Kaepernick is doing.

“Me personally, I don’t try to draw that kind of attention to myself, but for the people that are willing to do that I have a lot of respect for,” Jensen said. “So in terms of Kaepernick doing that, I have a lot of respect for him but personally me I probably wouldn’t have done that,” Jensen said.

“I’d stand my ass off, of course I would.”


Athletes are kneeling for the national anthem all through the United States, which has caused an uproar from people inside and outside of the sports world. Jensen, when asked whether the protests will fade away believed they could but was unsure.

“Yes, because everybody’s eventually going to forget, but no because there is a bigger picture behind it that there’s a better way to imply a message to people that we need to start recognizing there is a problem,”’ he said.

Eberson hopes a national conversation begins, although he is less optimistic that it will.

“I hope it escalates to something bigger, but I don’t have the same hope as he [Kaepernick] does,” Eberson said.