But what exactly does it mean to say that soldiers have died and are dying defending our country?
Before giving an answer to that, I think it would be worthwhile to take a look at our not so distant history. (But perhaps distant enough that too many people have forgotten.)
The Vietnam War.
Let's imagine it's 1970. And let's imagine Kaepernick is the 49ers quarterback then. And, before a game, he sits during the national anthem. How would people react? Of course, before you can even begin to think about answering that question, you have to know enough of the history of that time and what the political atmosphere in this country was like. I daresay, even before he could announce to the world what his reason was, a lot of people would already applaud his defiance. But, after the game, the reporters run in, and he explains that he sat in protest of the Vietnam War. Immediately, a whole lot more people would applaud him.
But, would anyone be outraged and say to him, "How dare you be disrespectful! Thousands of soldiers are dying out there defending our country!"? No. I am very confident in saying that no one would say that, least of all, someone in the military. In fact, if anything, soldiers would cheer.
Because I think damn near everyone would agree that it wasn't the U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in Vietnam who were defending our country. Between 1965 and 1975, it was the protesters who were defending our country.
Back to the present. A lot of people throw around the phrase "defending our country" without giving it a lot of deep thought about what it really means. And that's unfortunate, because the result is that a lot of people as citizens don't really know what our country means to them, or is supposed to mean to them.
Well, I wanted to keep this short, so I'll just tell you one thing that it means.
It means defending our rights and liberties.
And one of the most important rights that we as citizens of this country have is the right to protest. You don't really know how important that right is until you look through our history and look into other countries today where that right doesn't exist, whether on paper or in practice. (Because there are plenty of places where that right exists on paper, but is not protected and is regularly violated by the government.)
So, when Kaepernick sits during the national anthem in protest, not only is he not disrespecting our country, he is demonstrating for all of us one of the most important rights that we enjoy, the right to protest. And, he is defending that right. And just like the millions of Americans who protested the Vietnam War, Kaepernick is protesting both something the government is doing and something it's not doing; and by such protest, is also standing up for something that is supposed to be an American value.