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Majority opposes Kaepernick’s protest

Three out of four respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll do not support San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, which he says is a protest against racial oppression.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Since the NFL regular season began Sept. 9, Kaepernick has been joined in protest by several other players including 49ers teammate Eric Reid, Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, and members of the Miami Dolphins.

In a statement about Kaepernick’s decision, the 49ers said: “The national anthem (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.” Others, however, have criticized Kaepernick as unpatriotic.

While readers were thinking about pro football, this week’s poll asked if they thought the Buffalo Bills would be able to overcome an 0-2 start and make the NFL playoffs this season. Nearly 90 percent answered no. The Bills play the Arizona Cardinals Sunday in Orchard Park.

Nearly 1,150 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Sept. 19 and 20.

Do you support San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, which he says is a protest against racial oppression?
Yes: 25%
No: 75%

Do you think the Buffalo Bills will be able to overcome an 0-2 start and make the NFL playoffs this season?
Yes: 13%
No: 87%

While I may not agree with his position, I support his right to take a stand. That’s what America is about.
—Donna Bour-Purdy

Everyone has an adverse opinion about something. One thing that we should agree on is our respect for our country, symbolized by our flag and national anthem. Putting one’s own opinions over them is merely self-centered and antagonistic. He should be suspended by the NFL until he gets his mind right.
—Jim Cronin

The United States of America is founded on free choice. He has the choice to not stand. His employer has the choice to fire him. I would have fired him on the spot for disrespecting his team, his employer, the NFL, the American people, all the veterans who have served and died. It is a matter of principle. We all have choices and responsibilities to honor this great country. God bless the U.S.A.!
—Mark Williams

While I do support his right to protest racial oppression, I do not think it is appropriate to disgrace the American flag with actions such as he took. If it was not for the principles that the flag stands for, he would not have the opportunity to express his displeasures in any manner in public without fear of retribution. What else is he doing to support the fight against racial oppression? Is he contributing to groups that support racial equality? Is he organizing a group to peacefully protest? Is he actively pushing his government representatives for action? I have not heard of any of these actions being taken by him, or by the few other “athletic activists.” Just protesting is not the way to get things done—come up with a solution!
—Bill VanAlst

Seems like a double standard to me. He complains about inequality and oppression, yet he’s paid $19 million annually and he doesn’t whine and complain about that. (Break it down, that’s $365,000 a week.) Maybe he should make himself useful and donate his time and money to children in need.
—Rich Calabrese Jr.

This is exactly what the First Amendment is for. Speech that the majority agrees with needs no protection.
—Jim Bertolone

In six seasons, he has grossed $43 million. If he nets 50 percent, he’s at $21 to $22 million net after taxes. And he only donates $1 million? And the progressive media makes a big deal about it? What a joke!
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit

I strongly believe in the right of an individual to express themselves, but not like this. In light of the goings on here in the U.S. and around the world it is more important than ever to stand together. These “acts of defiance” do nothing other than help splinter our resolve as a united nation by fueling even more division. Good intentions but terrible planning.
—John Malvaso

If he does not like or respect this country and her symbol, no one is forcing him to stay in this country. I am sure he can find other countries in the world to take him in and pay him millions of dollars to live the lifestyle he now has. For those who support him, please join Kaepernick and leave. I am sure this good country can do better without you.
—Patrick Ho

The First Amendment protects Kaepernick from any federal punishment for his refusal to stand for our nation’s anthem, but the NFL or the 49ers could fine him or worse with no repercussions. Sadly, in an attempt to be neutral or even sympathetic to Kaepernick’s protest, they too have disrespected many of our best, brightest and bravest citizens. Kaepernick can believe whatever he wants to believe, but there are better ways to draw attention to his cause. We stand for the national anthem not because we are in total agreement with the direction of our country and the state of our government but rather to honor our history, our soldiers, and especially those who have lost their lives or limbs for us. These courageous souls have allowed us the protection to enjoy our NFL Sundays, and the least we can do is stand and remember them once a week.
—Tim Altier

Kaepernick has the right to express his opinion. An NFL football game is not the correct platform to do so. He should also demonstrate his commitment by sharing some of his wealth to support those he is supposedly championing.
—Gary Wood

When I attended the RPO opening concert last Saturday, I was proud to imitate Kaepernick’s great gesture and stay seated during the concert’s opening playing of the national anthem. Since the hall was packed (congratulations, RPO!), I couldn’t tell if anyone else did the same. No matter. I was neither leading nor following. I was just expressing my own opinion that the adoration of the U.S. flag and national anthem run counter to my faith as a Quaker. We do not even honor the symbols of Christianity. Why would we honor the symbols of nations, fashioned by human (not divine) hands? BTW, the concert was otherwise excellent!
—Ken Maher

I don’t like the method he chose for his protest. It makes me sad when the symbols of our country are treated in this manner. At every promotion in my 30-year Navy career, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment. As the French historian Voltaire wrote, “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
—T.J. Brovarone, retired captain, USN

Little is accomplished by able-bodied individuals who are on their knees or sitting on their ass. This character makes—notice I did not say earn—millions of dollars so he could start or contribute to any number of efforts to support and/or protest his issue. How about the Wounded Warrior Project? Start a foundation to support minority families who have lost a man or woman in blue to violence? Any of the dozens on inner city charter schools would welcome scholarship support. I could go on, but in the words of Helen Keller: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
—Bob Miglioratti

The leader of this country that “oppresses black people and people of color” is Barack Obama. The U.S. attorney general that enforces the laws for the past eight years has been Eric Holder and now Loretta Lynch. They are both individuals of color. Mr. Kaepernick believes under this leadership we have regressed. And I agree.
—Dom Pullano

Here is a person who has been able to do very well in life thanks to the very rights and privileges this country has to offer. He should be thankful, not disrespectful. Instead of using a negative action to make his protest known, why doesn’t he use his resources and knowledge to help the very people he is protesting for. It’s easy to protest, it’s another thing to get involved. Become a mentor, work in his community with the upcoming generations, meet and work with the people that can affect needed changes. That would accomplish so much more and he would be more respected for it.
—Grant Osman

The national anthem is a moment when we all put aside our differences, focus on the importance of what our nation and our Constitution stand for, and to pay respect to the hope our nation was built on and the sacrifices that our military has made in defending our Constitution from all enemies. Protest and argue after the playing of the national anthem, not during. Protesting during the national anthem is a sign of selfish individualism and will not further anyone’s cause.
—John Bartolotto

This is America, folks, not Russia. We all have the right to peaceful protest, and we all have the right to disagree. It would be authoritarian to force someone to stand during the anthem.
—Kristina Rogers, West Henrietta

Whether or not to stand for the national anthem, or to recite the pledge of allegiance, is a personal choice, not a rote act we must repeat because it was drilled into us as kids. I, for one, am relieved that Americans have the right to that choice. Think about nations, past and present, where people did not have that right. Are those regimes good company?
—Maggie Symington

As an American, Colin has the right to refuse saluting the flag and until we acknowledge openly that there has not been “ justice for all,” controversial public protest will continue. Our country will continue toward goals of equality through brave defiant acts of others such as Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther, gay pride and more, until our political and justice systems are fair to all.
—Laurie Broccolo, Broccolo Tree and Lawn Care

As a disabled combat veteran, I find it disrespectful to myself, other veterans and to my brothers and sisters who did not return home. I understand his right to free speech. But not to disrespect the flag that gives him his that right.
—James Durkin, past state commander, VFW Dept. of NY

As a combat veteran and having raised children of color in my home, I do not support the meaningless gesture of not standing properly for the national anthem. The NFL is remiss in not requiring participants when in uniform representing their brand to follow protocol in what is and has been a tradition before a game. As an individual, do what you will. As an individual or with others, take action and shout from the rooftops your solution to the problem. For these, overpaid spoiled individuals to kneel while members of the armed services—people who make a difference worldwide—celebrate the only nation on earth creating the conditions for great wealth is disgusting. Take action that matters, do not disrespect that which has created the opportunity for your success.
—Bob Scott, Bob Scott Productions Inc.

At first I considered it unpatriotic and selfish, but as I learned more I agree he has the right to free speech and expression. I don’t know what oppression Colin Kaepernick has experienced in his life, but being an NFL player, he has the big stage to voice his opinion and be heard. He and the other players who kneel now have to continue the conversation and help ensure a two-way conversation and education is taking place. What is great about this country is he will not get thrown in prison for having a different opinion than others and is allowed a “safe” counterculture way to express it.
—Keith Newcomer

I want to hear that Kaepernick is helping others directly (tutoring, giving money, playing sports with kids) in addition to not participating in the national anthem. A move like Kaepernick’s gives him attention but doesn’t help others.
—Chris Funt

I don’t support his refusal, but I do support his right to do so.
—Matthew Connolly

Hockey coach John Tortorella (coach of Team USA and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets) has the policy I agree with. Sure you can sit for the national anthem, and then you will also sit for the game.
—Ed Rosen, Fairport

There are other ways to show his displeasure rather than disrespecting the country that provides his substantial paycheck.
—Karyl Friedman

Colin Kaepernick loses credibility when he wears socks degrading police officers.
—Jim Bongard

While I wouldn’t use this particular protest, Colin has the “freedom” to. When any of us stand up (or kneel) for something we believe in deeply we also have to be ready for the consequences. Thankfully we quit hanging them!
—Tom Brady

Absolutely not. He should be ashamed of himself.
—Gene Tonucci, Allen-Bailey Tag & Label Inc.

One of the many things that make America a great country is the right to express your beliefs. However, in this particular situation he’s using his employer’s (the NFL) platform to promote his belief. Since when has any company/organization (other than the NFL) allowed employees to express/promote their personal beliefs using “the company platform?” Ironically when he gave his “press conference” a few weeks ago he appeared wearing his Fidel Castro T-shirt, a leader of one of the most oppressive countries in the world.
—Scott W. Rivard, E.K. Rivard Inc.

Question is phrased wrong. He is not protesting the National Anthem. He is protesting the oppression of peoples of color by white-privileged government laws and agencies. He’s being patriotic. People choose to misunderstand and are blind to the problems that Kaepernick is highlighting.
—Wayne Shipman

He can get the hell out of the country. Where else would he be allowed to be such a jerk and paid handsomely. Funny, I don’t remember him being a large donor or supporter of any cause or issue before. What a hypocrite. Protest on your own time. I really don’t care what you think. Boycott going well haven’t missed a thing!
—Mike Masters

I understand Kaepernick’s protest regarding race oppression in this country and agree something needs to be done. I do not agree with the disrespect he is showing to our fallen soldiers and veterans serving today. These soldiers fight and die for our freedoms and it’s a shame the disrespect that’s being displayed.
—Tom Sweeney

His act of protest is more “American,” and a person’s right to protest more important than standing for a flag. People under oppressive regimes stand for flags but cannot protest. Additionally, the flag doesn’t represent military but rather our country and our freedoms—like the freedom to protest. The discussion should be about what he’s protesting about, not the fact the he’s protesting or how. All of this noise is a way to avoid and distract us from the real problem of racial inequality and injustice that exists under that flag.
—Chuck Maloy

I respect his right to protest in the manner that is he is, but there are many forms of protest and as the wife, daughter and sister of retired Navy and Army veterans who have fought for our flag and the country it represents, I feel he chose the wrong form and format of protest. I would prefer to see him take an active role in improving the situation he is rightly concerned about, rather than a passive aggressive stance on this important issue.
—Tori Budgeon-Baker

It seems most of the commentaries have only grasped one side of the conversation. Of course, Kaepernick has the right to do what he is doing. I would hope that no one would begrudge his right to do so. However, I would also hope that Colin and his supporters also understand that it is everyone else’s right to judge him for his actions. In fact, that is how we judge, or should judge, all people who we come into contact with—by their actions. Some will support his actions and some will take the view that it is the wrong venue or means of protest OR that it is not the right cause. It’s up to them. With regard to racial oppression, the only reasonable barometer we have is history. So do you think things are getting better or do you think they are getting worse? Hopefully things are trending better year over year on this front and continue to do so.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester

He doesn’t look very “racial oppressed” to me.
—Steve Wichtowski

Not at all. Two wrongs don’t make a right. The National Anthem was adopted to symbolize everything great about this country and what it has overcome (the “racist” stanzas he is protesting were officially left out of the anthem specifically because of the question of the wording). To protest the National Anthem is to literally protest everything great about this country. You can’t fix what’s wrong by attacking what’s right, and disrespecting the only thing Americans have typically had common ground on.
—Damien Pagano, Rochester

I support an individual’s right to protest. However, when he/she makes that protest in their role as a spokesman/representative of a professional organization, the organization has the right and responsibility to prohibit that individual’s expression. Any specific team, and in this case, The NFL in general that stands by silently, has lost my respect, and my support. If you aren’t for America, you are against it. Go somewhere else, and leave your millions of dollars to a deserving charity.
—John Strong

Not such an easy question. Our flag and our country should never, never be “dissed.” Kaepernick, though, was not disruptive and did not encourage any other player to take the knee with him as far as has been reported. Go back in time. Muhammad Ali was vilified in the ‘60s for refusing induction in the army and paid for it with the best years of his professional life. The two Olympic athletes who took the victory stand with their fists in the air and heads bowed in Mexico City were shamed by the world through live television. Muhammad Ali died last year as a decorated American hero who was honored at the Kennedy Center. The two Olympians have also been honored and labeled as courageous. Clearly, our American justice and policing system as good as it as compared to most of the rest on this earth can find room for improvement. It takes someone or some ones to point it out and continue the conversation. Kaepernick went to his knee during the National Anthem—doing it on 9/11 too—and deserves what punishment his employer and the NFL gives to him. He also deserves us to keep an open mind about doing something to improve the situations which Kaepernick is pointing out.
—Jay Birnbaum

Absolutely do not support this type of protest. Such actions by Kaepernick and others do more to create a divide than to help resolve these tensions.
—Paul Lambiase

Mr. Kaepernick is absolutely within his fundamental constitutional right to make an expression of dissatisfaction with the state race relations in our nation. There is no constitutional requirement to stand for the national anthem. Heck, there’s no constitutional requirement that the anthem be played before sports spectacles. Forced shows of patriotism aren’t patriotic gestures, right? It’s all optional, and that’s part of what makes this nation great.
—Christine Corrado

Only a totalitarian state like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia mandates patriotic displays. I stand in respect with my arms at my sides or right hand over left heart, but that is my choice not some mandate.
—Carlos Mercado

His actions demonstrate basic disdain for our beloved country. Millions have fought and died for our freedoms. He has, in effect, given all of them and us “the back of his hand.” Perhaps he should emigrate to another country that he feels more represents his beliefs.
—Carol G. McManus

We need to provide the public all the facts backing up the claim of oppression. I believe it will show this is a false narrative.
—John Costello

I cannot support anyone who is un-American. Let him write letters to editors or travel around speaking to Americans, not ethnic groups. We have one flag and one language. Enough already!
—Daniel Mossien

If he wants to protest at an event where he is a spectator—not a paid participant—that would be his right. But he is using the platform that his team and the NFL are providing. The NFL should ban the players from protesting instead of banning 9/11 tribute cleats!
—Karen Zilora, president, Creative Scanning Solutions Inc.

To denigrate the National Anthem and flag this way is totally disrespectful! He has fame and way more cash than he needs. With that behind him and others, there are alternate ways in which all of these privileged athletes can make a difference. He does indeed have the right to protest but not this way. No country is perfect, but this country with all it has done for the world and for its citizens does not deserve this insult. You do not see veterans who have put their lives on the line and have been treated poorly themselves by our government not respecting the flag. Shame, too, on the very rich owners for not putting a stop to this.
—Nigel Heaton

Colin Kaepernick is a hypocrite. He benefited from the system, being raised in a privileged household and getting preferential treatment throughout his life. His protest would be a lot more effective if he would use his millions to support programs to educate underprivileged children and re-integrate prisoners into society. I’d rather see him put his money where his mouth is.
—Fran Reese, Reese Environmental Consulting LLC

Whether someone stands for the national anthem is a truly trivial issue. People protest things all the time in a whole variety of ways, some more effective than others. Our right to do so makes us pretty lucky in this world. The important thing is to protect that right.
—Rob Brown, ESOP Plus

He has a right to protest, however, in my opinion, he should not be protesting in a 49ers uniform in the 49ers stadium. He, and all others on all teams in all sports, should do their protesting in civilian clothes, at other venues. The owners of the sport franchises should not allow these protests in team uniforms, in their stadiums. If I was a team owner, I would notify all players that further protests in uniform would be met with fines and/or suspension. To allow players to protest in uniform indicates tacit approval of, and agreement with, the players actions by the owners.
—Harry Caruso, Caruso Asset Management

I respect his right to free speech. However, as high-profile athletes are role models and influences on young people, I believe he is using the wrong forum for his protest as are all the athletes following his example.
—Bob Spitulnik

Kaepernick should be kicked out of the NFL. Let him play football in some other country where his perceived discrimination does not exist.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

I don’t agree with all that occurs in the U.S. especially as it pertains to racism, sexism, bigotry, etc. Women have been oppressed for years as well—I still stand for the national anthem and will continue to do so while always believing in future change.
—Ellen Buck

His action has brought more national attention and conversation than all of the well-meaning discussions and speeches by our other leaders. The pervasive and continuing systemic, cultural and individual racism in this country is a blight on our population and our progress and must be addressed. And most important, it must be addressed by those who have a platform; famous athletes, entertainment figures, media, political and business leaders need to speak out and demand progress and action.
—Alan Ziegler, Futures Funding Corp.

A decisive protest that fails to pull us together does not help the Black Lives Matter protest. This movement needs to more than just irresponsible police behavior, but looking at all urban violence and ask do lives matter when it is urban on urban? If Lives Matter, then we as urban citizens must stand up and not tolerate any action that cheapens anyone’s life.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester

The flag stands for a lot more than his simple mind can comprehend. I think he is suffering from too many concussions.
—Chris Tertinek, mayor, Sodus Point

I think that Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem is deplorable, disrespectful and irresponsible. The national anthem is played out of respect to The United States and it citizens for the liberty and freedom we’re blessed with. This is a direct slap in the face to every man and woman that has worn a uniform in the line of duty that preserves the rights of ALL people to protest. I’m a business owner that has dealt with every type of race, ethnicity and gender my whole life. All people should be treated with respect and dignity.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware

Kaepernick is showing the greatest disrespect to those who have given their life and limbs to allow him this freedom. He should apologize to all our veterans for starters.
—Bill Bond

People sometimes mistake superficial gestures for authentic acts. Standing up for a song or saluting a flag does not make one a patriot. Standing up for the rights of Americans in the face of adversity, on the other hand, honors those who have defended our freedoms.
—Mike Bergin, Chariot Learning

I understand his point, and there is no reason Americans have to walk lock-step to demonstrate our patriotism. It’s called freedom of speech.
—Charlie Gray

Colin Kaepernick is acting like a “punk” because he’s a high-paid benchwarmer. The NFL and the San Francisco 49ers should suspend him. Freedom of speech is not protected by the Constitution in regards to his actions because the NFL and the 49ers are private entities. His support of the hate group Black Lives Matter shows his ignorance.
—John Rynne

9/23/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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