Constitution first page
Source: National Archives of the United States.

A Reminder on the Right to Free Speech and Protest as Demonstrated by Colin Kaepernick

“I  am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Choosing not to stand during the playing of the national anthem of the United States prior to the start of a game as a form of protest, Colin Kaepernick — who is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers professional football team — has been causing quite the controversy which has led to a national debate; and he plans on continuing his protest until he feels like the American flag “represents what it’s supposed to represent.”

A Reminder on the Right to Free Speech and Protest

Regardless of the reasons for his protest, Kaepernick is reminding people of two ideals which American citizens might at times take for granted: the right to freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and the ability to protest peacefully — both without fear of repercussions imposed by the government.

There are countries in this world where Kaepernick would suffer serious consequences — such as arrest, imprisonment, financial penalties and fines, corporal punishment or expulsion — just for doing what he is permitted to do in the United States.

According to this article from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the ten most censored countries in the world — where expressing your opinion or speaking your mind can lead to disciplinary action, which can include detention or expulsion as two examples of punishment — are:

  1. Eritrea
  2. North Korea
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4. Ethiopia
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Vietnam
  7. Iran
  8. China
  9. Myanmar
  10. Cuba

Click on the name of each country listed above for details as to their ranking on the list.

In addition to the above list are the countries of Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Belarus, according to this article from ExpatFocus — and there are other countries around the world which were not included but can also be restrictive in terms of freedom of speech.


For many of us, the freedom to travel to many places around the world can be taken for granted. To some countries, that freedom is as simple as purchasing an airline ticket. To other countries, spending money on a visa — to enter or to exit the country — is needed…

…and then there are a handful of sovereign nations and territories where just being able to gain entry seems virtually impossible.

Even to the countries which may be quite easy to enter, knowing that restrictive laws and proactive censorship practices exist may be easy to forget. You can be arrested, jailed, experience corporal punishment, or earn an expulsion from certain countries if you speak against their governments; proselytize religion; or openly exhibit sexual preferences which may be against the law as only three of many examples — so consider this article an important reminder to know the laws of the countries which you plan on visiting so that you do not accidentally get into trouble. The official Internet web site of the State Department of the United States is an excellent place to start learning about what you need to know before traveling to other countries.

While I believe that the United States is one of the greatest countries in the world, I will be the first to say that it is certainly far from perfect — but ironically, having the ability to protest the very country which permits protesting is a freedom which should be appreciated. It is an important reminder — as well as a valuable lesson to show the world — as to the power of that freedom and the reasons for it.

In the case of Colin Kaepernick, the opprobrium of many people who are appalled by his actions is the result of their beliefs that he is unacceptably disparaging the American flag, the Star Spangled Banner and the United States in general — and just as he has the right to express himself in a peaceful manner, they have the right to condemn it. They also have the right to boycott the San Francisco 49ers or the National Football League, if they so choose. The United States is a free country, after all — for the most part, anyway…

…and the people who agree with Kaepernick equally have the right to express their support for him.

I personally do not particularly agree with what, where, when, why and how Colin Kaepernick is conducting his protests — but I vehemently defend his right to do so.

Source: National Archives of the United States.

  1. Great article… Until the final paragraph. Frankly, if makes no difference if you agree or not. The world will continue to spin, and travel bloggers will continue to whine when their butts aren’t kissed or they are subjected to anything inconvenient or less than opulent. I started reading blogs like yours, and Lucky’s, and TPG to get tips on how to enhance my own relatively infrequent travel. The main lesson I’ve learned is that economy may be less in terms of creature comforts, but the people in the back of the plane tend to be better examples of humanity. I’ll be sure to not be uppity or aspire above my station as a result.

    1. Ah, Joe Pauley, but it is my right to agree or not — just as it is your right to agree or not agree with whether I agree or not agree with the agreement of…

      …um…what was I trying to say?!?

      Anyway, thank you for your comments; and I do agree with them — especially with your comment pertaining to people in the back of the airplane. That is indeed a valuable lesson to learn.

  2. “he plans on continuing his protest until he feels like the American flag “represents what it’s supposed to represent.””

    Here’s the problem. I absolutely support one’s right to protest, but they’ve got to give an end game. Until what? The way he’s done this is so waffly there’s no way to grasp his goal, except a fuzzy “when things are better”. The way it stands, there’s no way for anyone, much less all, to “win”.

    1. Thanks Brian, and don’t take too harshly what I said, we do all have a right to an opinion, and you’re one of the more enjoyable (not to mention handsome lol) people I follow.

      And Colleen, I think a good start would be seeing some kind of justice for the many killings we’ve seen at the hands of some, thankfully few, less ethical law enforcement officers that are a bad element among our men and women in blue. Kill a 12 year old kid within seconds of arrival because of a toy gun on a playground? Nah, it’s ok, you’re fine. A suspect dies in custody after a van ride where he wasn’t buckled in our secured in any way as the van swings wildly on the street? Must be the van’s fault, certainly not the driver. There’s a pattern here… Two actually. The victims are almost invariably people of color, and the people who did the killing are almost invariably police officers who receive no punishment. I think some indication of that cycle being broken would be enough. Just some hint of justice for minority communities.

      1. I appreciate your thoughts, Joe Pauley; and please believe me when I say that reading what you wrote, the word harshly never crossed my mind. I prefer honesty.

        As for the remainder of what you wrote, I prefer not to comment because there are two sides to every story — and then there is the truth. Discrimination should absolutely not be practiced by law enforcement officers nor should it be tolerated, as they should be protecting all citizens equally, in my opinion; but then again, they also want to be able to go home at the end of their shift and see their families.

        Ideally, no one should be killed unless absolutely necessary in order to protect the lives of fellow citizens…

    2. I think you have stated an excellent point, colleen.

      Whatever happened to Occupy Wall Street; and did the protests ever accomplish any end goals?

    3. Fine, everyone is entitled to have their view, just as everyone is entitled to protest in many forms. For myself, I’m personally offended by how many things are “sacred” when one wants them to be or someone is too “waffly” so we (apparently?) should focus on the appropriate time/place/way someone can protest (I guarantee you there are people who protest “appropriately” and no one gives a flying …. because that doesn’t get any attention) or perhaps we must require them to state specifically what they want so we deem whether it’s worth discussing.

  3. What a useless and off point post. Nobody questions whether he has a legal right to protest. Nobody is advocating government agents swooping in and shepherding him off to an internment camp. However, no individual or corporation is obligated to provide him a platform for his misguided and offensive protest. Therefore, I’m disappointed he is still employed, and I won’t support the NFL or the 9ers financially as long as he is still an employee (I’m in the bay area).

    I’ve noticed that when someone expresses an unpopular leftist viewpoint, we all get lectured about the right to protest. When someone expresses an unpopular right wing viewpoint, the leftist mob goes for blood.

    1. Personally, I think the wrist slaps given to NFL rapists, wife beaters, animal abusers, etc are fast more offensive than allowing players the right to peaceful protest, but that’s just my far left commie liberalism talking. And we’re not trying to silence the racist and xenophobic rantings of Trump, like he’s trying to silence Hillary (second amendment people, anyone?). We just want him beaten at the polls.

    2. I do not find the right to freedom of speech and protest to be “useless and off point”, WR. I take those rights seriously…

      …so seriously, in fact, that the only comments which never see the light of day here at The Gate are pure “spam”. All other comments — especially the ones critical of me or my work — are approved and remain visible for all to see.

      I am neither “left” nor “right”; but I can tell you that the entire point is that we in the United States — or other countries which practice similar freedoms — should not take our rights and privileges for granted; and that we should know what we can and cannot do when traveling to other countries.

      If you still believe that this article is “useless and off point” — well…I support your right to believe and express that, for what it is worth…

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