Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem has been met with harsh criticism. Kaepernick has been called anti-American, anti-police, anti-veterans and military. Anyone who challenges the status quo can be called anti-American. The backlash against Kaepernick is just one chapter in the long history of political repression in the United States. In 1938 Congress created the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

HUAC's vehement political repression often targeted groups seeking civil rights for African Americans. HUAC's politically repressive agenda laid the foundation for McCarthyism, the political repression of the 1950's led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Long line of athletes who speak out

McCarthy's tactics were to label any ideological opponent as un-American or communist. Once the Cold War ended one could no longer label an opponent communist as a means of prevailing in an ideological argument.

In more recent times allegations of communism have been replaced by allegations of terrorism, or having terrorist sympathies if one disagrees with the foreign policy of the United States, particularly in the Middle East. Kaepernick's protest proves that the anti-American epithet is still in fashion. According to the mainstream media Kaepernick's strongest critics are in law enforcement and the military.

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Kaepernick dared to allude to police brutality against blacks and other minorities when asked about his protest. The growing number of African Americans shot and killed by police gave rise to an entire movement, Black Lives Matter. Kaepernick's protest is one of a long line of prominent African American athletes who used their celebrity status to speak out against social injustice in society.

Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised the black power fist while on the podium after receiving their olympic medals at the 1968 Olympics.

For this nonviolent act of asserting pride in their heritage and standing up for their people they were suspended from the US team, vilified in their hometown and even received death threats. Neither athlete ever apologized for standing up for their people and the photograph of their salute is one of the most famous of the 20th Century. Perhaps more well known is the late boxer Muhammad Ali's opposition to the Vietnam War one year prior in 1967.

Ali was immediately stripped of his heavy weight title for his refusal to be inducted into the United States Army. He was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined ten thousand dollars, and banned from boxing for three years. Ali's case was appealed and he avoided a prison sentence; the Supreme Court later overturned his draft evasion conviction. Ali refused to fight for a country that was actively at war with his people to deny African Americans their civil rights.

First amendment rights

The accusation of anti-Americanism is a distraction from the real issues that Kaepernick has tried to raise. Being against police brutality and the unaccountability of police who shoot and kill unarmed suspects who are principally minorities, is not the same thing as hating all police officers. Being against the United States' policy on interventionist wars to procure fossil fuel is not the same thing as hating military personnel. What is remarkable about the hateful accusation of anti-Americanism is that the United States was founded on a written constitution and bill of rights. From a constitutional point of view, Kaepernick's exercise of his First Amendment rights is one of the most American things an American citizen can do. History proves that constitutional rights can be unilaterally suspended by the state any time they interfere with state interests. Silencing a historically oppressed minority is one of those interests. Which is why Kaepernick's protest is important. He will be remembered for his stand as Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Muhammad Ali were before him, despite what the lackeys of state interests may say.

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