Is the USA a free country? If it is then why all the fuss about conscientious objectors, and those who choose to sit out the national anthem, or pledge of allegiance? Why do some people think that the First Amendment exists only for them?
One of the greatest injustices in the history of American professional sports occurred in 1967 when the boxing authorities stripped Muhammad Ali of his heavyweight title and prohibited him from participating in the sport at the pinnacle of his career solely because the man was exercising his First Amendment rights as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.
On top of that, the U.S. government convicted him of the crime of refusing to report for induction into the U.S. military. I still remember that Ali was then considered the most reviled human being on the planet by the American public – just for exercising his First Amendment rights.
Eventually, however, in 1971, a unanimous United States Supreme Court struck down his conviction and validated his fundamental right to be a conscientious objector. And eventually his reputation as perhaps the greatest boxer who ever fought was rightfully restored. Now he is considered one of the most loved and respected sports figures who ever lived.
Shame on the U.S. government; shame on all the people who believed that the First Amendment only applied to them and those they agree with.
Have these ignorant people finally learned their lesson? In a word – no! They still believe that fundamental constitutional rights apply only to them.
There are still many public schools in the USA, for example, that force children to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance every day in spite of the longstanding Supreme Court decision that held that practice unconstitutional.
Today the unruly mob is all apoplectic over the news that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand or the playing of the national anthem at preseason football games. They simply cannot stand to witness someone who won’t conform totally to their idea of how American patriotism should be culturally forced on everyone.
Kaepernick explains that he is a practicing Muslim protesting what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Now I don’t agree with his protest but I do agree with is right to express it by not participating with the majority in its patriotic show.
"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem," the 49ers said in a written statement.
Niners coach Chip Kelly told reporters Saturday that Kaepernick's decision not to stand during the national anthem is "his right as a citizen" and said "it's not my right to tell him not to do something."
Well, I for one am gratified that there are still at least some intellectually honest people among us who believe that the First Amendment exists for everyone.