Colin Kaepernick is brave, Tortorella is wrong

It’s Monday, and you are headed to work, looking forward to get back into the grind and accomplishing what you have dedicated your life to.  The project you have spent weeks on with your co-workers is finally coming together, and you love the feeling of working as a unit to accomplish what you have set out to do.

You get into work, on time as usual, and you are greeted uncomfortably by your boss right as you enter the building.

“Go home.  You aren’t working for me.”  Your boss has decided that your stances on certain social issues, and the way you vocalized them at a rally over the weekend, didn’t fit his own opinions.

“What?  I have the right to free speech in this country.”

“What you did was disrespectful.  And I will not tolerate it.”

Look, there is a reason why suspensions with pay are still considered a punishment.  Many people take pride in, sometimes thoroughly enjoy, what they do for work.  Your boss just took away your ability to work, and it not only hurts you, but also your co-workers.

In what world would anyone find this acceptable?  Well, many Americans have applauded USA Hockey head coach John Tortorella for his comments regarding players potentially sitting during the national anthem.  He threatened to bench any of his players for the entire game should they sit for the ceremony.

This topic has many land mines surrounding it, and I’m going to try my best to avoid them.  With that being said, some of you still may find this offensive and utterly ridiculous, but that’s inevitable when discussing social and political issues.

First off, sitting during the national anthem is clearly a controversial action.  But isn’t that the way to make a statement?  Someone cannot simply go up to a reporter and say, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the social injustices in this country.  Let that be known.”  It doesn’t stir the pot in any way.  What Colin Kaepernick has done with kneeling during the anthem has angered many, and also inspired many.  It’s an action one must take to create the discussion. 

Sitting during the anthem is not a threat.  It’s not putting anyone in any sort of harm, and while some may argue it’s insulting to the veterans and soldiers who have given their lives for this country, please take the time to listen to the man about what he’s kneeling for.  He isn’t doing it to insult our troops.  He’s doing it to get you to listen.

Kaepernick’s actions will not get us to a place of where we need to be on this.  He’s a sitting duck, vulnerable to heavy amounts of criticism.  One man cannot make millions of people listen and try to understand.  What Kaepernick has done, no matter what your opinion is on the matter, is extremely brave.  He knew going into it that he would be the focal point for many people ripping him to shreds.  He could potentially be black-balled from the league if he were to be cut from the 49ers.  Owners who are too afraid to put their name on a quote are taking pride in disagreeing with his actions while timidly hiding behind our flag.

Last night, Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, former teammate of Kaepernick’s at the University of Nevada, also took part in the social stance.  Many players across sports have applauded Kaepernick for his actions.  If this social statement gets to a point of actual discussion and not just an insult-fest on one or a few player(s), other athletes will be more inclined to follow his lead and do the same thing.  The more that do, the more pressure it puts on the other side to actually listen.

As for John Tortorella, congratulations on putting your name on it.  But you did it in probably the worst way possible.  Threatening to punish someone for exercising their rights to free speech is un-American.  Whether you agree with someone’s opinions or not, America is a land that welcomes all parties (or at least intendeds to).  Having your own religious, political, and social views, given they are not a threat to harm others, is legal in this country.  Taking away a person’s ability to work because you disagree with any of those views is wrong.  Imagine if a Muslim were to pray during work, and the boss didn’t like it and sent that employee home.

If you agreed with Tortorella, try this hypothetical out (credit to Dan LeBatard on this one): Imagine if Mike Tomlin threatened to bench players who didn’t take a knee during the anthem.  Yes, it’s extremely wrong, and he would be torn to shreds by all parties.  But why is Tortorella applauded by some people? All this hypothetical did was flip the sides of the issue.

What Colin Kaepernick has done certainly is controversial, and people have every right to disagree with his actions.  It’s your right as an American to disagree with it.  But let’s cut out the bullshit here and look at the situation for what it is.  Kaepernick did this for a couple of games before it gained any attention.  When a reporter asked him about it, he explained what he was doing.

“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 told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”-

The American flag stands for many things.  Kaepernicks reasoning behind his actions is important to hear out.  He clearly states why he is doing it, and to just ignore his words and label him an anti-American who doesn’t respect our troops is wrong.  You can disagree with his actions, as I’ve stated and will continue to reiterate, but don’t paint the guy as a soul-less human being for something he’s not even trying to comment on .  You want to fire back with, ”Well, he is insulting the troops regardless of what he says or intends?” Well, you, my friend, clearly don’t want to listen to the real message.

This upcoming Sunday is sure to make this story a greater controversy.  Players around the league want to stand (well, sit) with Kaepernick, but it comes on a day that couldn’t be more perfect for patriotic backlash (9/11).  I hope for the sake of the players that they take their time planning this out to avoid some of the heat produced by their potential actions.

For people that do want to voice their opinion on the other side of this, I would like to discuss it with you in a civilized manner.  I will try to respond to those who are willing in the comment section (does anyone read this?  About to find out I guess).

Ryan Jackson

About Ryan Jackson

My name is Ryan Jackson and I love fantasy sports. I graduated from the University of Maine in 2014 with a degree in Journalism, and I am now a graduate student at Quinnipiac University working on a sports journalism degree.