By Ken Reed

I’ve always thought we lost one of our best thinkers, best public servants, and best patriots when Robert F. Kennedy was killed.

It would be interesting to hear what RFK would have to say about Colin Kaepernick’s controversial sit-down-for-the-anthem. Who knows what his thoughts might actually be, but there is an RFK quote that’s relevant in this situation:

“The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.”

To me, patriotism is loving your country so much that you’re willing to make a lot of personal sacrifices in order to criticize what’s wrong in your country and to work to make it a better place for all citizens.

However, for a lot of people in our country, patriotism seems to mean falling in line behind the powers to be, whether they be government leaders, military leaders or even corporate leaders. To these folks, patriotism is unabashed support of those in charge, no matter what.

I wrote at The Huffington Post the other day that I think Kaepernick is indeed a patriot. It would’ve been a lot simpler — personally, professionally and economically — for Kaepernick to keep his opinions to himself and go along to get along. Well, he had the courage — more courage than most Americans — to stand up for something bigger than himself. To stand up for something that he strongly believes in.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the American populace has responded to Kaepernick’s actions in a very ugly way.

If you don’t like Kaepernick or his stance, fine. Stand up and state your beliefs in the great American marketplace of ideas. But also be thankful that thousands of men and women have sacrificed their lives to give us the right, and freedom, to debate the Kaepernick issue openly.

I still think Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s famous quote provides the most patriotic way to respond to Kaepernick if you disagree with him: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Yes, defend to the death his right to say it and then state — respectfully — what your belief is.

That’s America at its best. And that is what all of those brave soldiers who died defending the symbol that represents America died for.

It’s called the First Amendment.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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