49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel during the pre-game performance of the national anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in the United States has generated a lot of feedback, but none of it as epic as the one from Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson.
Watson released a statement on Monday describing in soaring prose why he will continue to stand, “my helmet in my left hand, adrenaline flowing and my heart raging under my right,” for the national anthem.
Like a lot of statements from the “pro-standing” side, Watson’s talks about respect for American military. “I stand,” Watson writes, “because I grew up in NAVY town USA and traveled overseas to support members of our armed forces who follow orders regardless of their personal sentiments.”
But Watson’s statement is much more complex than its patriotic surface lets on. In the first paragraph, Watson concedes that “racism still stews, families are fractured, the unborn are trashed, schools are struggling, religious freedom is increasingly under attack, violence pollutes our cities and our suburbs, and there is a growing divide between law enforcement and the community.”
He describes his decision to stand for the national anthem as “a pledge to continue the fight against all injustice and preserve the greatest attributes of the country, including Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel.”
He even called Kaepernick’s protest, and others like it, “a vital part of our journey and a key component of the equation for social change.”
Watson ended by voicing his hope that there be more discussion about the issues that inspired the protest than about Kaepernick himself, “and that ensuing dialog discover truth and that truth give birth to justice in legitimate situations where there is none.”
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