WASHINGTON ― Many have accused San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick of not supporting veterans since he decided not to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday in protest of how people of color are treated in America.
But not all former members of the military see Kaepernick’s protest as disrespectful.
Marcus Newsome, who served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2011, told The Huffington Post he was tired of seeing Kaepernick bashed for “exercising his 1st Amendment right.” In an email, he said he was also tired of people using veterans to argue against Kaepernick’s stance, “especially when that flag and anthem has been racist towards people historically, treated Veterans like crap in the past and now, and in some cases [using] us as a vehicle for their ignorant agendas.”
So he started #VeteransForKaepernick ― a hashtag for veterans to voice their support for the quarterback.
“I literally had no choice but to stand with him ― not because he’s biracial, not because he’s a 49er, which I’m a fan, but as a Veteran who got tired of people using us as a political vehicle when he had every right to do so,” Newsome continued.
Joe McCastle, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army, said he stands behind Kaepernick’s message as well as his right to freely express himself.
“Too much focus was given to the symbol of [Kaepernick] sitting rather than the message,” McCastle said. “His message was being clouded by constant slander ... there are veterans who are not only not offended but are actually behind him and are indeed proud of how he exercises the rights we fight tirelessly for.”
Kaepernick’s decision has certainly emboldened those who take issue with certain methods of protest as well as the skin color of the protester. The focus hasn’t been on the crux of Kaepernick’s message, the staggering rates at which black people are killed by police or how often police kill people in mental distress (some of whom are veterans). Instead, people have chosen to criticize a vocal black man who is unapologetic in his refusal to stand up for the national anthem.
But for Brandy Lochette, who served in the Army and the Marine Corps, supporting Kaepernick is the right thing to do.
“We as service members take an oath to defend the Constitution and all that it stands for. That includes everyone’s right to stand up for what they believe in, whether it’s popular or not,” she said.
The fact that Kaepernick is African-American, Lochette pointed out, also makes him susceptible to experiencing police violence ― as some professional athletes have. James Blake, a retired tennis player, was tackled by an NYPD officer in September 2015 after being misidentified as a robbery suspect. When Milwaukee Bucks player John Henson tried to enter a high-end jewelry store during regular business hours in October, he said employees locked the door and told him to leave before police arrived.
Instances like that give Kaepernick “every right to stand up for what he believes in,” Lochette said. “As a result, because of my choice to serve this country, I support his right to protest in the peaceful manner that he has chosen.”
Matt Lorscheider, a former Marine, echoed Lochette’s sentiments.
“There is horrible injustice in this country for people of color and I agree with his decision to not show reverence to a symbol of a country that has allowed it to persist,” he said. “It is his protected right ― a right I swore an oath to defend.”