First, I doubt Colin Kaepernick “likely regrets” any of his actions, which he did to shed light on an under-reported, under-represented minority community whose lives are disproportionately taken by violent means at the hands of white people in power. He made a statement for issues that need attention and are largely ignored by the white American public: social injustices and police brutality.
When someone becomes as rich, famous, and celebrated as an American athlete, the responsible thing to do is to find some way to be a role model — because you have the nation’s attention; you’re influential. Kaepernick used his platform responsibly. And he was only given a spotlight — not a microphone — so he did what he could in those few moments. It’s not his fault if the American public was too lazy to do their own research and learn the why behind his decision.
Instead of having a common knee-jerk reaction, every American who called him “spoiled,” “selfish,” or anything else like that should’ve bothered learning why he did it in the first place. And if they think they knew why but still felt perturbed over it, then they probably hadn’t read, listened, or learned enough; they weren’t at a place where they were capable of having any empathy for this particular American tragedy. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what having ‘white privilege’ designs us to do: we’re designed to not only benefit from, but to also not see the systems in place that work to our subconscious advantage, but not for POC.
The NYT said it best:
He sacrificed for his beliefs and with a dignified use of free speech, that grandest of American traditions, he came to personify a coming of political age across several sports.
Second, you say “I do not believe he intended to take it that far,” but indeed, Kaepernick planned to take it even farther. That is, until he had a meaningful dialogue with a Veteran — Green Beret — Nate Boyer, who’d also had a stint in the NFL (Seattle Seahawks). It was Boyer, a white man, who implored Kaepernick in an open letter not to “sit out” on the bench anymore during the anthem, as he’d originally planned & had already done a few times before. Kaepernick, being a man of reason and respect, decided to hear his brother out. So they met up and discussed the whole matter.
Boyer initially advised Kaepernick to take a knee instead of sitting down during the anthem, as a compromise — kneeling, a peaceful posture, as soldiers do in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects. And ultimately, that’s what Kaepernick decided to do. It was a compromise, between a man who wanted to sit out, and another man who thought he should stand up for the anthem.
A compromise happened between two men who fundamentally disagreed on complicity for America’s symbolic traditions of patriotism, but who saw eye-to-eye on standing (or kneeling) for what they believe in. A lot of Americans could learn so much from following the shining example that these two polar opposite men gave us.