U.S. military veterans are speaking out in support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against the national anthem prompted a wave of criticism claiming he had disrespected veterans by not paying tribute to the American flag.
The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick took off on Twitter this week in response to the right-wing outrage, and as Kaepernick himself clarified that his sit-down protest was only meant to critique state violence and oppression against people of color.
"I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country," he said Sunday. "I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. [But] people are dying in vain because this country isn't holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody."
The hashtag began trending Tuesday night as veterans posted photos of themselves in their military gear and noted the hypocrisy of the backlash against Kaepernick.
"I'd never try to shame someone with 'patriotism' in order to silence their 1st amend Right," one wrote.
"Don't use my service—or that of any veteran—to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch," said another.
Meanwhile, others pointed out that even the national anthem itself has a racist undertone, with one verse ending in a celebration of slavery. And as Oakland, California-based writer Elizabeth Ann Thompson wrote for The Progressive on Tuesday, "instead of being offended and reacting to Kap's protest, we should emulate his teammates in trying to understand where he is coming from. He is giving voice to the voiceless. He is speaking for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and the countless other black and brown folks who are killed by the police every year."
Don't use my service--or that of any veteran--to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch. #VeteransForKaepernick
— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) August 31, 2016
— Nicole (@dcmbrdiva) August 31, 2016
— Baltic Avenue (@Baltic_Avenue) August 31, 2016
— Brandon Keating (@BrandonTalks) August 31, 2016
— Traynesha Cole (@TrayneshaCole) August 31, 2016
— Kristen Meghan (@KristenMeghan) August 31, 2016
— Ed Beck (@DEdwardBeck) August 31, 2016
— Brandon Gericke (@bgericke999) August 31, 2016