Colin Kaepernick is free to do whatever he wants during the national anthem. If he wants to assume yoga poses and salute the flag with a middle finger instead of an entire hand, that is his legal right. But his employer, the 49ers, is free to penalize him however it wants, subject to the terms of his employment contract. That is their legal right. Free country, free speech, free markets. Employers cannot fire you for being black, brown, yellow, female, Jewish, gay, or old, but they most certainly can fire you for violating the terms of your contract. End of legal discussion.
On the merits, the Kaepernick protest does not appear to signal anger against the NFL (which employs more black players than white ones) or his team. Apparently Mr. Kaepernick’s disdain for the national-anthem ritual is intended to signal that he is not proud of his country, because he does not like the way black people are treated here. Remind you of anyone?
Is America sufficiently flawed to merit this kind of insult? That is a matter of opinion, but there is an irresistible temptation to say, OK, what other country on earth would come closer to satisfying you? And if there is such a country, why are you still here? If your plan is to stay here and fix America, the only part of your plan that makes any sense is your pledge to donate a million dollars to community organizations, though it might be more impressive if you paid the money today – and if it turned out that Acorn is not your model of a community organization. Have you considered that you could honor your nation while working to improve it?
If Kaepernick’s behavior inspires similar protests by other professional athletes, it will pose a dilemma for the various leagues and associations that set the rules for player contracts and standards of conduct. Will sports become yet another part of our culture in which participants and fans will be required to take sides, that we will become even further divided on matters of social mores or political correctness?