Disapproval of the NFL players’ form of political protest is the result of ignorance, misinformation and disinformation nurtured by understandable (but not justified) emotional reactions. The idea that such protests were disrespectful to military members and veterans is illogical and wrong. Of course, one can “feel” that anything is anything, but since words and ideas actually have meaning, we can and should dismiss as demonstrably false the truth claim that Colin Kaepernick’s protest was disrespectful (intentionally or otherwise) to the military.
Because the flag does not represent any one group of Americans. Indeed, if it represents people at all (debatable), it represents all Americans. Military members who literally fight for America can certainly be forgiven for reacting emotionally to flag-related protests, but we cannot allow their understandable feelings to blind Americans to the truth. Doing so, or worse stoking this emotionally-driven misunderstanding, is unpatriotic and dishonorable.
Obviously, it’s not easy to stand up for principles when doing so creates hurt feelings among (and scorn from) honorable men and women, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than mortal combat. Patriotic Americans who understand the principles “for which it stands” are duty-bound to be well-informed, forthright, and honest about both what these NFL players were doing and what the American flag is supposed to represent, namely “liberty and justice for all.”
Therefore, to be logically consistent, disapproval of the form these protests took would have to be based on the claim that not standing during the anthem is disrespectful to America’s cherished principles of freedom and equal justice. The critics of the kneelers that can’t (or won’t) explain how these protests offended America’s creedal commitments deserve to be confronted with their illogic and/or suspect motives, even when such critics have earned our gratitude for honorable military service to America. America’s military members and veterans have given much to their country, but the flag is not merely a symbol of their particular brand of patriotic sacrifice. It represents the patriotic aspirations of ALL Americans working faithfully to advance America’s principles each in his or her own way.
Bottom line: Colin Kaepernick’s efforts to raise awareness about racial injustice are exemplary of America’s creedal commitments represented by the Stars and Stripes. Efforts to discredit him (rather than rebut his substantive claims) are not.