Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem during last Friday’s NFL preseason game has unsurprisingly triggered an outpouring of criticism for the San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling took Kaepernick to task for his actions, as did some fellow NFL players, who said the quarterback’s protest was disrespectful not just to the United States flag, but every armed forces member who has served under it.
However, in the last few days, another movement has started making waves in the conversation. The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick has given voice to U.S. military veterans defending the quarterback’s right to protest.
When asked about his stance on the matter, ESPN Reporter and military veteran Sal Paolantonio told The Michael Smerconish Program “I salute civil disobedience.”
“When I was 22 years old I put my left hand on the Bible, raised my right hand and pledged to protect this country against all enemies foreign, domestic. I vowed if called upon I’d be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for my country,” Paolantonio said. “I did that for a reason. Because I believe in the Constitution, I believe in the Bill of Rights, I believe in the First Amendment, I believe it’s worth dying for.”
He added: “If Colin Kaepernick and anybody else wants to have an act of civil disobedience, you do you. Go have at it.”
What makes Paolantonio uncomfortable with the conversation surrounding Kaepernick is that so many people think he shouldn’t be able to choose when or why he’s protesting.
“We don’t get to choose what people want to protest for or when they want to do it,” Paolantonio said. “The point is, in Putin’s Russia, you don’t get to do that. In Assad’s Syria, you don’t get to do that. In China, you don’t get to do that. Here in America, you do.”
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