Right to protest runs both ways

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

Most young boys have sports heroes. I was no different. My first childhood hero was Archie Manning because my Mom is from Drew. Willie Mays was also a sports idol to me because he played for my favorite baseball team, the San Francisco Giants. But in 1972, my Dad took me to Candlestick Park for my first San Francisco 49ers game to see John Brodie and Gene Washington play the Saints.

While I cheered for Manning and Mays, I had now found my team.

That ’72 49ers team did pretty well, even earning a playoff berth despite Brodie getting hurt. A young QB by the name of Steve Spurrier stepped in and guided them to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys for the second straight year, thus creating my disdain for the Cowboys.

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But by the mid-70s my 49ers were terrible, even bringing in a washed up O.J. Simpson just to draw fans. Through it all, I still pulled for them while my buddies were die-hard fans of the Oakland Raiders, who had emerged as one of the best teams in the league.

My family moved from the Bay Area of California to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1978 and I continued to cheer on my Niners. Under new ownership in Eddie DeBartolo and a new head coach in Bill Walsh, the 49ers were on their way back after drafting a little-known QB from Notre Dame named Joe Montana.

Throughout the 80s, my 49ers dominated the NFL with four Super Bowl victories. My team had become a dynasty, and although they have been down in recent years, my team from my youth is still my team as a 50 year-old man.

That is, until this week.

This week, one of the quarterbacks of my team decided to stage a protest, which he has every right to do. Colin Kaepernick, who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game a year later, decided this week to not stand for the National Anthem as a means of showing his displeasure with racial inequality in the United States.

Whether he says so or not, by not standing for the National Anthem and honoring the American flag, he is dishonoring the memory of Americans – white, brown, yellow and black – who have fought for and died for his freedom to be paid $19 million to throw a football. That freedom also gives him the right not to honor the American the flag with his protest, but I – like many other Americans – do not have to agree with his actions.

In response, I vowed not to support my team as long as Kaepernick is on the roster, not because of what he is protesting, but how he is going about his protest. We live in a free society and he is entitled to his views, but I cannot support a team that condones a player’s actions by disrespecting the American flag and what it stands for.

Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford
EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com.