Hi. My name is Rebecca Woolf and I am a mother of four living in Los
Angeles. I am married to a passionate Jets fan, grew up surrounded by Chargers
fans and am the mother of a very excited and newly minted Rams fan—who, as I type this, is helping his father organize this year's fantasy
It has always been my understanding that athletes, specifically football
players, are role models for the young people in our country, which is why I'm
writing this letter. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's
unwillingness to stand for the national anthem is not only patriotic, but a
symbol of solidarity to THE PEOPLE—in this case, people of color who continue
to be systemically oppressed, slaughtered and disrespected at every level and
in every neighborhood in these United States.
The thing is, sometimes in order to show solidarity for people who are
struggling, you have to turn your back on the ideals of others—not to
disrespect them but to show respectfor those who have been systemically disrespected. As a white woman,
I will never understand what it's like to be a black man in America, which is
why it's that much more important for me to listen, to learn and to stand up
for Kaepernick's right to say THIS ISN'T RIGHT. And, I was disappointed to hear
that you don't take a similar stance.
Role models are people to look up to. Role models are people who speak for
those who cannot, who are unafraid to lose friends, fans, popularity in order
to do and say what needs to be said. Role models align themselves respectfully
with those who have been disrespected. Role models give voice to the voiceless,
even it means offending
a majority. Role models stand up to a system that will bully the entire
schoolyard if someone doesn't risk doing SOMETHING.
This is what I want my children to see, to witness and admire: a man who is
willing to risk his reputation as an athlete in order to make a statement and
ignite change, a man who can say his piece, do his job and wake up the next day
to do the same.
My goal is not to raise children who are the best in their profession of
choice, but rather to raise children who stay true to their hearts and are
fearless with their ethics, who are able to see the bigger picture with a
willingness to risk reputation—and, yes, even their career—to do what's right,
even if that means going against the team. The coaches. The owners. The executives
who comment anonymously.
Rumor has it that Kaepernick's behavior has been a "thorn" in the
side of the NFL, and I get it. I don't agree with it, but I get it. Distractions
are the worst. Disruption is super annoying.
"You can be a professional football player, an
accountant, a politician, a teacher—if you are black, you cannot escape the
harmful and even deadly effects of racism in America. Colin Kaepernick is black
every minute of every day of his life, and his money and his fame will not
remove that blackness. Nor will they keep him safe when he’s out of uniform.
"What Kaepernick has done with his simple protest is
brave. He has risked his privilege, his fame and his very career to stand with
his fellow black and brown people against the systemic oppression that is
literally killing us. This is what team spirit looks like when you look beyond
jerseys. This is what American values look like when you stand for all
I believe wholeheartedly in the power of protest—I always
Dissent was how I found my power as a young person, and
building a platform without using it to stand on is, in my opinion, a
completely worthless endeavor. I believe that everyone with a voice should be
using it to incite change and open up much-needed dialogues. And as a parent
and as someone who writes about issues that pertain to parents online, I wanted
to let you know that Colin Kaepernick is exactly who I want my children to look
to as a role model.
The people I most admire are those who stand up, who stop trident submarines
with their bodies and rail against injustice with their
minds and marches and fists to the sky. Sometimes, such protests yield
tangible results; sometimes, the results are more subtle in their power. But
anyone who has ever stood up for what they believe in—protesting with love,
with peace, with bravery, in order to defend the rights of other human beings—I
stand behind in solidarity.
I salute my
great aunt for protesting Vietnam, a war she was wholeheartedly against—not
because she was anti-America but because she was against going to war with
Vietnam. One can protest American policy and still love and respect America. In
fact, the two are one and the same. I get angry at my children, not because I
don't love them but because I think they can be better.
"What does it mean for a citizenry that uncritically
demands patriotism from everyone in this country while simultaneously insisting
this country is best for its freedoms? What sort of message does that send to
our students? ...
"In our classrooms, students are constantly asked to
think deeper about the presented information, but simultaneously, our schools
are structures for American obedience and compliance. Saying the pledge of
allegiance before any learning happens means that any learning from the end
makes the pledger assume that the learning happening shortly thereafter is part
of this set of lessons that is impervious to critique and dissent. Every book,
every equation, every piece of work that’s provided by every adult in the classroom
is not worth amending or correcting because these are all American, and, if
it’s American, it can’t be wrong. Obedience. Compliance."
If my children were to refuse to rise for the pledge of allegiance because
they didn't believe in its words and if that protest incited the hate I have
witnessed over the last week, I would be writing a letter just like this to the
principal, to the school board, to the state capital.
In the meantime, I will be watching this story carefully—pointing out to my
children what real patriotism looks like: STANDING
UP FOR YOUR TEAMMATES OFF THE FIELD, AS WELL AS ON.
"Some of the most cherished symbols of American
patriotism are predicated upon moments of resistance, protest and revolution.
One would then think that Americans would applaud and respect Kaepernick’s
quiet statement instead of calling him a traitor. But in the land of the free,
we still seem to value the symbols that represent America over the ideals that
America supposedly represents."
Which brings me to Hamilton.
Like many other families, my kids and I are obsessed with the musical "Hamilton." OBSESSED. We love "Hamilton" because as well as being a love letter to
America, specifically our founding fathers, it's also a celebration of
rebellion as patriotism, of free thought as freedom. Alexander Hamilton personifies the
American dream—a man who refuses to stand to the side, a man who is not going
to throw away his shot.
"What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s
choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years
after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance, and Tommie Smith and John
Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats,
we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix
this problem is what’s really un-American here."
I have great respect for anyone who has a platform they're willing to use to
incite change and spark important dialogue. That, to me, is heroic.
That is the America I love and am proud of.
I guess I just want you to know that when I talk to my children about
fighting for what they believe in and standing up for what's right, in spite of
the ramifications, there is a man on the San Francisco 49ers I can point to as