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News & Features » September 2017 » “Colin Kaepernick” by Ben White

“Colin Kaepernick” by Ben White

In April 2016 Akashic Books launched the Edge of Sports imprint, curated by Dave Zirin, a sportswriter who has never shied away from criticizing that which die-hard sports fans hold dear. The Edge of Sports titles will address social justice issues across many different sports, and at both the professional and nonprofessional/collegiate levels. Parallel to this exciting new imprint, Akashic will be running a “Sports & Justice” series on our website featuring short original essays (750 words or less) paying homage to athletes who have demonstrated heroism outside of their field of play.

This week, a very timely piece by Ben White on quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick.

Colin Kaepernick
by Ben White

As a baseball guy, I personally think the National Football League (NFL) represents a sport of glorified wrestling that is less entertaining than if someone threw a football out onto a NASCAR track.  I have even said football is not a sport at all because over half the team never wants to touch the ball.  My views, I realize, are on the border of being Un-American, so I will keep my opinions on the sport to myself.

Football fans are, after all, the torchbearers of the American way; with a rough-and-tumble, back-down-from-no-one spirit that is ready to show the world the big-stick ideologies of sports and society.  What could possibly be wrong with a nation in which citizens are ready to run home after church and worship the grid-iron Saints . . . or Redskins, or Dolphins, or Raiders, or whatever team it is to which they have committed their souls.

So when an event forces them to re-evaluate their after-religion religion, they are, of course, going to side on the same red, white, and blue patriotism they give Jesus in church.  Jesus has watched over every war in America’s righteous history, and still has time to watch over the NFL, so it stands to reason, when someone decides not to stand up for the National Anthem it is going to be viewed upon as a sin against the good motives of the sport.  After all, Jesus wrote The Star Spangled Banner for Americans, so we are obligated to observe the playing of the song with respect.

There is no room in sports for anyone to make a political statement. In fact, in a nation as pure as America, there is no room (or reason) for anyone to even attempt to point out social injustice or any inequality because those conditions are not allowed by the Constitution; a document that was also written by Jesus specifically for Americans.

In 22 years of military service, I took the oath to defend the Constitution no less than seven times.  Each time I raised my right hand and repeated after my superior to defend that document against all enemies foreign and domestic, I listened and paid attention to what I was saying.  “Against all enemies, foreign and domestic” always made me think.  Foreign enemies were clear; no question. 

Domestic enemies, however, made me wonder.  Who could possibly be a domestic enemy?  A person who refuses to stand for the National Anthem?  No. That person is practicing a right provided by the Constitution as a matter of free speech.  I celebrate that person because my military service protected that person’s right to sit during that song, or any other song with the exception of My Old Kentucky Home; which, I think, by my personal birthright, should be the real national anthem.  It was a song about the natural beauty of an American state, an anti-slavery song, and celebrated by abolitionists.

Abolitionists fought against domestic enemies – even without necessarily taking an oath. I have to consider them to be my allies in my defense of the Constitution.  So now, if a person – especially a black person – is protesting against social injustice and inequality, maybe the work of the abolitionists is not yet complete, and I still have an obligation to maintain the oath I took during my military career.  Perhaps I should not be offended by that person’s actions, but apply a little bit of intellectual, critical thinking. 

That intellectual, critical thinking may lead me to the conclusion that the person sitting down during the national anthem is not a domestic enemy, but a patriot defending the constitution against domestic enemies in his own way in a forum that allows him to reach a very wide audience of the people who need to be subjected to his protest.   

Perhaps I should stand with him; or, in this case, sit with him.  The worst case scenario is I will be escorted from the football stadium by supporters of those righteous, national behaviors, and that’s okay.  It’s not a real sport, and I am a baseball guy, anyway.


BEN WHITE was going to be a centerfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, but that required arm strength and foot speed, so that dream ended at the University of New Mexico. With an AA in Social Science, a BA in Creative Writing, a BA in Philosophy, and two years in the infantry, he did what any one would do; he went back to the military. After 20 years in the Coast Guard, he retired with an MBA, an MA, and an EdD. Since retiring, he has earned an MFA in Poetry. Everything he writes is written behind the wheel with the windows rolled down.


Do you have an essay you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Sports & Justice series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your essay should focus on a specific athlete (or, in some cases, multiple athletes) who has committed her or himself to some form of social justice or otherwise heroic endeavors off the playing field.
—Your essay should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Sports & Justice are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Sep 25, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Sports & Justice | Tags: , , , , , , , ,