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This nation gives Kaepernick his right

I support Colin Kaepernick’s constitutional right to make an ass of himself.

That was the opinion I shared early last week via Twitter. The wording might have been a little more harsh than needed, but it was a first reaction tweet to the news that San Francisco 49ers (now backup) quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench during the playing of the national anthem as a means of protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

Thanks to the remarkable country we live in, and brave men and women who have fought and died defending it, Kaepernick has a right to protest how he sees fit, even if I don’t particularly care for it.

I believe I am the first male in my family not to have served in the military, at least in several generations. Both my grandfathers were World War II veterans and my dad and my uncles were all veterans of Korea or Vietnam.

I recall my father explaining that if called upon, it was my duty to go serve my country, but if provided a choice, he and my mother preferred my younger brother and I seek other educational and service opportunities. So we did, but I always maintained an immense appreciation and great sense of pride in my family’s history of service to this country.

It is for those reasons that I took umbrage with Kaepernick’s means of protest. I agree, however, that there are injustices and issues with unequal opportunity in our country that need to be addressed. We need to have honest discussion and debate and Kaepernick’s decision to sit has evoked a lot of discussion, where some other form of protest might not have received the same level of attention.

I should also note that after obviously fielding a litany of criticism for sitting in a disinterested manner on the bench during the anthem against the Packers, the following game in San Diego last Friday he chose to drop to one knee, allegedly to lessen the level of perceived disrespect to veterans while still maintaining his protest.

Heavy boos rained down on Kaepernick from the crowd in San Diego, which happens to be home to U.S. Marine and Naval bases. In fact, this very game was “Salute the Military night” with a few hundred soldiers holding a giant U.S. flag during the pregame ceremony while Navy SEALS parachuted in.

I’ll say this for Kaepernick, throughout these protests, discussions were plenty whether he would be cut by the 49ers who appear to have moved on from him as their starter, so he stood by this public protest on principle knowing his professional future was in doubt. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, formerly Chris Jackson, of Gulfport, was essentially kicked out of the NBA for a similar protest years ago.

I don’t know Colin Kaepernick personally, so I’m certainly not going to judge his motives. He’s made some other showings, such as his recent decision to wear socks portraying police as pigs, that would cause you to question his judgment if true change is what he’s after.

But I do support his right to do it and appreciate a professional athlete willing to risk an awful lot to shed light on public issues he and many others believe deserve more attention. I just wish he would find a different means.

The Stars and Stripes and all it stands for is why he has the right to protest, and also why there’s a greater chance the injustices he speaks of will be addressed.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.