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Patriotism takes a knee in Kaepernick's NFL protests

San Francisco 49er football player Colin Kaepernick protested against the National Anthem, creating a political stir across the nation. (photo/

San Francisco 49er football player Colin Kaepernick protested against the National Anthem, creating a political stir across the nation. (photo/

What defines patriotism? 

This question has gathered national attention this fall as San Francisco 49er backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel during the National Anthem at a professional football game, after electing to sit on the bench during preseason games.

He has commented, “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.”

Kaepernick will continue defending his actions until feeling “the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.” His protests have been picked up by other professional athletes and entertainers.

Social media reaction to these protests have been swift and widespread. Kaepernick's name became a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter minutes after his protest. Meanwhile, conventional media commentators have asked Kaepernick to “shut up and stand” for the national anthem.

This national debate led to Ohio Northern University’s Office of Multicultural Development to organize a discussion on race, sports, and patriotism during the October Cultural Conversation Hour in the English Chapel. Students, professors, and faculty members voiced their opinions on the subject. 

Senior multimedia journalism student Casey Mulcahy felt the discussion was important since the topic has expanded across the nation to include other athletes in a variety of sports.

Every day I get more blown away with what’s going on in the world,” Mulcahy said.

Students discussed the symbolism behind the National Anthem and how the song unites people of all races, ages, and genders at sporting events.  

International Services Coordinator Omega Hollies offered the question: When is it the right time to protest? Was it appropriate for Kaepernick to protest?

At its core, the United States was formed by resistance and rebellion, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Adriane Thompson-Bradshaw. She adds that the current discourse involving Kaepernick’s actions is important in promoting change.

Senior political science student Alex Brown broadened the topic, turning away from Kaepernick’s protest to the National Anthem to how people should react to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Do we pledge to the flag or the symbol of the flag?” 

Patriotism has changed over the years, according to Brown. As more people continue to voice their opinions, the words in the Pledge of Allegiance will become more valued. “We need to read the words we recited every day in high school,” he said.

Former comedian Red Skelton, from the 1960s through 1980s, was known for his patriotism. He devoted a segment on his popular television show, The Red Skelton Show, to reproducing the symbolic meaning behind each line of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Director of Multicultural Development LaShonda Gurley said the words in the Pledge of Allegiance are very important to value. As people gain information about these cultural and political topics, including Kaepernick’s rebellion, deeper societal discussions will develop. These topics will be the focus of future cultural conversations, organized by the Office of Multicultural Development.


The next scheduled Cultural Conversation Hour is on Tuesday, November 8 at 11 a.m. in the English Chapel. The discussion will focus on everyday resistance among American slaves. 

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