Numerous U.S. military service members and veterans have taken to social media to voice support for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's right to protest the national anthem.
Kaepernick ignited controversy after he refused to stand during the U.S. national anthem at an Aug. 26 preseason game. The quarterback has snubbed the anthem during previous preseason games and has stated that he is protesting police brutality against African-Americans.
“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. “To me, this is bigger than football … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
U.S. military service members have taken to social media outlets to defend Kaepernick, some agreeing with his anger toward police brutality while others simply support his right to freedom of speech.
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Kapernick’s protest has drawn furious criticism from veterans groups, law enforcement, and even one of his former teammates. Minnesota Vikings veteran guard Alex Boone told USA TODAY that Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem deeply upset him.
“It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there,” Boone said. “That flag obviously gives [Kaepernick] the right to do whatever he wants. ... At the same time, you should have some [expletive] respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom.”
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On Aug. 30, U.S. military veteran Patty O’Day told KRON that she believed Kaepernick was disrespecting the sacrifice of U.S. military service members.
“You don’t attack the very symbol of our unity by refusing to stand and showing disrespect,” O’Day said.
On Aug. 28, Kaepernick clarified that his protest was not directed at U.S. military veterans, according to CNN.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick told the press. The quarterback added that U.S. military members “fight for freedom, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone ... this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.”
Now military service members and veterans are voicing solidarity with the quarterback with the trending hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick.
“If I became rich and famous today, and decided to speak out about the on going systematic oppression of black people and constant police brutality in this country, which … uniform would you burn?” wrote one Instagram user and U.S. military veteran.
“I encourage all veterans to make similar post to mine and show support for our brother Kaepernick,” the user added. “Its a misconception that every military member is furious at his protest when there are those that are proud.”