Think what you want about Colin Kaepernick. That’s your right. But understand this: What he started is working. To what degree? Who knows. We may never know for years or for decades. But people are talking and wasn’t that his goal, at least partially, all along while trying to make real change in America?
That doesn’t mean I think kneeling during the anthem is right, and it doesn’t mean I think kneeling during the anthem is wrong. Personally, I wouldn’t do it or want my child to do it. But I’m also not black and I think it’s impossible for me to understand how someone of color feels without sharing their skin. But you can’t argue that something is happening in this country, and Kaepernick started it. Even if I think the message he wants to convey seems to get lost more than it gets sufficiently discussed, people on both sides of the line in the sand are talking.
Some talk about how black lives matter, or how they don’t matter enough, and that must change. Others talk about respect for America, the flag and our military, or a lack thereof. The controversy took center stage in Rochester this week when all 18 World of Inquiry varsity boys soccer players decided to kneel during the anthem before Tuesday’s match at Aquinas. But something really cool happened on Thursday night and not at Bishop Kearney in Irondequoit, where this time only 11 World of Inquiry players knelt.
It happened in Webster, another Rochester suburb. That’s where host Schroeder and Fairport played a junior-varsity football game on a field adjacent to the stadium where the Schroeder and town rival Webster Thomas boys varsity soccer teams played. When the football players heard the anthem from the soccer match start, they stopped playing.
Every player stopped and listened to the anthem.
“(They) removed their helmets and faced the flag. Coaches, officials and fans all followed suit,” Bob Caulkins, a Schroeder parent, shared with me. “It was a moving moment of an unscripted gesture of patriotism and respect.”
A teacher and coach at Gananda Central, Caulkins gave the picture of this meaningful moment a title: UNITED THEY STOOD. He shared this with me, he said, because even when we feel there are moments that “divide us,” they can also “unite us.”
We all know those JV players never would have stopped playing if Kaepernick hadn’t started this. So if you think everything he has done is wrong, think again, and give credit to the boys from World of Inquiry for having the courage to do what they feel is right. The message they’re trying to deliver is about people of color still being kept down in America. They’re not doing this to disrespect the flag or military. But there’s something else happening, and if there are more teens out there like those from Webster and Fairport who while listening to the conversation have gained a deeper appreciation of the anthem, the flag and our military, that’s certainly not a bad thing.