I’ll be the first to admit that I somewhat rushed to judgement with the Colin Kaepernick situation. At first glance I was angry at his decision to sit down during the National Anthem. I thought it was extremely disrespectful to the men and women who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
But I’ll be honest with you, the more I read his comments about his decision, and those of the people who support him, I have come to understand his perspective.
I should have taken the time to read his direct comments before condemning his actions. And I think this is a classic lesson we can use as a teaching point for our children: don’t judge a book (or actions) by it’s cover.
In today’s world we are all looking for instant news and reactions in the 24 hour news cycle. And we are all quick to provide our judgements through our social media outlets. The lesson I learned through this situation is to make sure I’ve read or watched the primary source (Kaepernick) before rushing to judgment.
Now, I would’ve handled or demonstrated my stance differently if I were him, but I understand his point. If the point is to bring awareness to an important issue, he’s accomplished the goal. It shouldn’t matter how much he earns, who his parents are, what race he is, or where he grew up.
We want our athletes and celebrities to use the platforms they’ve been given for good. I think Kaepernick’s trying to do that. Now, where does he go from here? How will he help bring more awareness to the issues? How will he help in resolving them? These are all questions that remain to be answered.
The issues Kaepernick raises are difficult for many to discuss, especially for our youth. This situation provides an opportunity for positive discussion on difficult subjects for our youth athletes. Here’s how I would approach and handle those conversations.
Understand the intent before your judge. Kids today are growing up in the instant digital world. They have more pressure on them to say and do the right things all the time. I love social media, but I’m thankful it wasn’t around while I was growing up. I honestly don’t know if I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of using these platforms as a teenager.
As soon as the news broke on this story, everyone was quick to weigh in with their opinion (myself included) without hearing his remarks. We just took the headlines and ran with it. The lesson for our youth is this: Don’t believe everything you see and hear from the media. One should always evaluate their sources, and should always go directly to the source. When you listen to Kaepernick’s remarks, you begin to understand his perspective and why he chose to sit during the Anthem.
Having now understood the intent, it makes the action easier to understand.
Free speech is free speech, all the time. Everyone has the right to exercise their rights. This week the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick was trending. I spent a good 20 minutes one morning reading through the tweets. I was surprised to see how many American Military Veterans were supporting Kaepernick. The common theme and a lesson for our youth was this: Free speech is Free speech all the time.
Our military heroes serve and fight to protect our first amendment freedoms. Many of the tweets in support of Kaepernick referenced the freedom of speech. It’s one of the rights that makes our country so great. As long as he isn’t endangering the well-being of others or engaging in slander, Kaepernick is free to peacefully protest and use free speech. Whether we like it or not doesn’t matter. He’s within his rights. The lesson for our kids is this: It’s okay to disagree with what someone has to say, but we should all defend their right to say it.
If something is important to you, stand up for it. Our kids need to be taught to stand up for what they believe in. It’s our responsibility as adults to teach our children this lesson. One person can make a difference. One person can spark a change. If you can do something about it, and you feel passionately about it, you shouldn’t stand still.
If my son were to ask why is this man sitting down, I would explain to him that he’s expressing his beliefs. I would try explain to my son Kaepernick’s comments and why he feels the way he does. In doing so, I would discuss why it’s important for us to have empathy. Just because we don’t see or deal with something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I would want my sons to understand other people’s views and frame of references. This situation provides a good conversation on how we can be empathetic towards others.
Just because you don’t agree with something or an action, doesn’t mean you can’t respect the person. This is one of the biggest problems in our country today. We are losing the ability to have civil conversations on topics we don’t agree about. We have too many keyboard ninjas out there who spew hate from behind a screen.
I don’t agree with the socks Kaepernick is wearing or his decision to not stand during the anthem, but I respect him and his reasons for doing so. I would tell my sons just that. It’s okay not to agree with someone. It’s not okay to hate someone just because they have different views than you.
We should use this to teach our children it’s okay to attack the issues, but it’s not okay to attack the person.
Race is an issue in America, but it shouldn’t matter to you. What I mean is this: Racism does exist and sadly some form of it will always exist. It is a part of the conversation and why Kaepernick is choosing to sit down.
Children are not born with racist attitudes and beliefs, but the sad reality is that many minorities have to deal with it from a very early age. All of us as parents have the moral responsibility to teach our children that the color of one’s skin doesn’t matter.
If we don’t like Kaepernick sitting to protest racial injustice, we better make sure we’re doing our part by teaching our children respect all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity. The only thing that should matter is if someone is nice or not. It’s the only thing that matters to kids on a playground.
Yes, I know there are bad people out there. We all see the world through a different set of lenses. And it’s our responsibility to discuss these important issues with our children so they don’t grow up filled with anger and hate.
It’s an unfortunate situation to have a professional athlete sitting during the national anthem. In a way Kaepernick has challenged all of us to fix the problems. You or I may not be able to make the biggest difference, but we can make an important one; in our homes.
So, let’s take these lessons and teach them to our children in the hopes they will help make our country be what our ideals say it should be.
The greatest legacy any of us will ever have is who our children grow up to be.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!
Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, or organization. Message him for details.