There’s been a lot of debate lately about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem and whether or not his anti-oppression protest and the increasing number of players who support him represent the “unpatriotic” inhabitants of our sovereign land.
There’s this growing sentiment that NFL players don’t respect the American flag or the veterans who fought and died for the liberties we enjoy and don’t cherish their country.
On Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., however, Washington Redskins offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, a native of Cameroon completed his naturalization process and along with 45 other candidates, officially became an American.
“I’m the one who said that I can finally call myself an American,” he said after the ceremony.
(Photo Credit: larrybrownsports.com)
According to the Washington Post, “The 24-year came to this country with his family at the age of 6 and has spent three-quarters of his life here, mostly in the Washington area. His brother Cyrus, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, also plans on becoming a citizen, and Kouandjio talked about the new rights he now enjoys: He can get a passport, he can vote, he can run for office.”
“Before...all I could do is just watch CNN or just watch FOX or just watch; I wasn’t a participating member in all decisions,” Kouandjio told reporters. I still can’t be the president which is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I can do other things, so it’s awesome.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide player can be described by some as the anti-Kaepernick. He’s a guy who wasn’t born in this country and he expresses the gratitude and humble personality that some Americans are seeking in these so-called “militant” football players who don’t have to be thankful for citizenship because they have it already.
He’s also an example of the diversity of Black people and the beauty of America, showing an obvious divide in philosophy between immigrants in this country who seek citizenship like it’s a lost child and Black people whose families have been here since it’s inception.
In Kouandjio’s case, he says his parents came to America seeking more opportunity, a better education and a better way of life for their children.
(Photo Credit: touchdownalabama.net)
On Tuesday he stood and recited the Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Allegiance and held on firmly to his miniature American flag. After, “he was mobbed for photographs, and speaking into cameras, and posing with a U.S. cabinet secretary after pledging allegiance to that same flag. “
Naturally, he doesn’t think protesting the anthem is the “way he’d go about it”, but as he learns more about being an American -- and the political and social history of being a minority of any kind in America -- he also understands the protesters right to express themselves and fight against injustices in this country.
Kouandjio, like a lot of people in this country, wouldn’t choose to aim his protest at the flag for obvious reasons, but “like many people (also) pointed out,” he told the Washington Post, “people fought for their rights to (protest). “They have the right to do what they’re doing. I mean, they’re using their platform in a different way, to get their values across. That’s part of what America is.”
He’s right. Not much different, but much less intimidating and hate-filled than the Klu Klux Klan legally marching through one’s town spewing bigotry under local police protection.
This cornucopia of ideas and opportunity -- and oppression -- is what America is all about. Finding a way to rise above the nonsense and make the most of your chances in this country. Having pride in being an American and all it is supposed to represent. I’m sure plenty of NFL players feel that way contrary to popular media-driven beliefs. Kouandjio is surely one of those guys.