Fennelly: Let Kaepernick sit for anthem; that's American, too

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick won’t stand for the anthem to protest treatment of people of color.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick won’t stand for the anthem to protest treatment of people of color.
Published Aug. 29, 2016

O say can't you see: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wasn't as unpatriotic as he seemed when he sat out the national anthem before a preseason game.

Kaepernick was taking his First Amendment rights on an extended drive.

He was being … American.

You remember the First Amendment. It protects freedom of speech and expression, among other things. It's the amendment right in front of the Second Amendment.

Kaepernick's protest Friday night wasn't popular. I wouldn't have done it, but I'm not him.

He told the NFL Network: "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 are getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

I'm not about to tell the guy to love America or leave it.

It's a free country.

True, I'm not sure where Kaeper­nick is going with all this, or how personally oppressed he is, since he makes millions of dollars.

But he was born to a white woman and a black man. He was then adopted and raised by white parents. He might be as good a person as any to be disappointed about our nation's racial tensions.

A red, white and blue confession:

I can get gooey over the flag and anthem.

My eyes filled watching American Olympians cry on the medal stand as the flag rose and the anthem played in Rio. Wrestler Helen Maroulis' and swimmer Simone Manuel's tears were especially moving.

I still remember the lump in my throat during a trip to France 25 years ago, when I saw our flag snapping in the wind above the American military cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Every time I see that photo of firefighters raising the flag over the rubble of the World Trade Center, I get chills.

Another confession: I didn't want to sing an anthem when politicians took no real action in the aftermath of those children who died in the Sandy Hook shootings.

I wasn't proud of America at that moment.

It's a free country.

I get gooey over that, too.

I'm thankful to live in a place like this, where you can express yourself. You can call Kaepernick an idiot, or a washed-up quarterback trying to make news, or worse, or a lot worse.

It's a free country.

Look, we have bigger problems than a quarterback not standing for the anthem.

Kaepernick could have minded his own business.

Only he decided this was his business.

It's a free country.

It is one founded on a 240-year-old idea that remains forever young and proud. I've never once thought that those who fought wars for us, and for freedom, did it so we could sit around and completely agree with each other. We're stronger than that. We're more than symbols. We speak up. It's our right.

That's as American as America gets.