True patriots support the right to have controversial debates


Kernel Opinion SIG

A picture released Tuesday showing Colin Kaepernick’s face with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” and the Nike logo sparked outrage as people burned their Nike sneakers and “fixed” the new campaign photo with veterans’ faces instead of Kaepernick’s.

The photo was significant because Nike, which has an almost $2 million contract with UK, chose Kaepernick’s face as part of its 30th Just Do It campaign, while seeming to endorse the football player’s peaceful protests of racial injustices and police brutality through kneeling during the National Anthem.

My personal social media accounts are full of mixed reactions: Some people are outraged that Nike would endorse who they see as an unpatriotic person while others have expressed support for the bold move.

Instead of criticizing or praising Nike and Kaepernick, I would like to draw your attention to the most important issue here: that both sides of this argument have the freedom to express their views.

Too often, we take advantage of our freedoms in this country. We get tangled in petty squabbles over who’s right and who’s wrong. We scream and rant over the patriotic ramifications of Kaepernick kneeling, Tim Tebow kneeling, citizens’ burning Nike shoes, etc. Instead, we should realize what a treasure we have in freedom of expression. As a journalist, I celebrate both sides’ right to express their approval and disapproval of Nike’s new campaign. I am so grateful to live in this country where we can all express our views. There is nothing more patriotic than this, and if both sides truly love this country, they will celebrate their opponents’ right to express their viewpoints.

Al Jazeera reported in 2015 that Spain had ended their freedom of assembly under a bill called “The Citizens’ Security Law”, which allowed police to hand out astronomical fines to demonstrators and protesters. In Quebec, demonstrative marches are illegal and in Turkey, police can search activists’ homes without warrants. These are only a few examples of countries that stifle freedom of assembly, and we are dangerously creeping to this point in our country.

Controversial debates such as the ongoing one surrounding Kaepernick’s protest of social injustice have reached a dangerous peak: Each side is calling for the silence of the other. If this is what the people demand, what will keep the government from arguing that we truly do not want freedom of expression, which is our constitutional right that allows for freedom of debate? It is up to us to defend and maintain this right we have, and we can do this through respecting each other.

I come from a long line of proud soldiers and members of the military. I love my country and I love what we are meant to be. If the anti-protesters who are burning Nike shoes and screaming for the boycotting of Nike and the NFL truly are patriots and love this country, they must celebrate all forms of debate, even ones they personally oppose.