San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has sparked controversy by choosing not to stand for the national anthem. Despite shock and outrage, Kaepernick has defended this decision, telling NFL media:

“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.”

While Kaepernick has been criticized for expressing his views this way, there’s no doubt about his right to do so. Just as controversial forms of speech like flag burning are protected under the First Amendment, so is the right not to speak.

You are free to sit during the national anthem. You have a right not to put your hand over your heart, and you aren’t required to stand for or recite the pledge of allegiance.

While these decisions may not be popular, controversial and unpopular speech is often most in need of protection.

Learn more about the importance of free speech with Professor Laura Kipnis in this playlist: