Former Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven, who commanded the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) when al-Qa’ida leader Usama Bin Ladin was killed by American commandos in 2011, has indirectly weighed in on the Colin Kaepernick National Anthem controversy by way of an August 29, 2016, memorandum to the presidents and athletic directors of the University of Texas System.

McRaven, after retiring from the Navy as a four-star admiral and commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 2014, was named the Chancellor of the Texas System in January 2015.  In the August 2016 memo to his subordinates, McRaven refers to an earlier January memo he had also sent them, asking that they ensure the school’s coaches and athletes stand straight, face the flag, and place their hands over their hearts during the playing of the National Anthem.

While McRaven does not explicitly mention Kaepernick in his latest memorandum, one can surmise that the latter’s recent refusal to stand during the Anthem is what spurred McRaven to send out the second memo.

The unedited text is below:

(Photo: Marsha Miller, HOEP)

August 29, 2016


From: William H. McRaven

As most of you recall, last January I sent out a letter asking you to encourage your coaching staff and your players to stand up straight when the National Anthem was played.  I requested that the coaches and the players “face the flag and place their hand over their heart as a sign of respect to the nation.”

I made it clear that honoring the flag does not imply that the republic for which it stands is perfect.  I said, “Far from it, honoring the flag is our collective commitment that we will constantly attempt to get better as a nation, to improve as a people, and to use the freedoms we have been given to make the earth a better place.”

I spent 37 years defending freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  Nothing is more important to this democracy.  Nothing!  However, while no one should be compelled to stand, they should recognize that by sitting in protest to the flag they are disrespecting everyone who sacrificed to make this country what it is today — as imperfect as it might be.

Those that believe the flag represents oppression should remember all the Americans who fought to eliminate bigotry, racism, sexism, imperialism, communism, and terrorism.  The flag rode with the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th, 10th, 24th and 25th Cavalry and Infantry Regiments.  It was carried by the suffragists down the streets of New York City.  It flew with the Tuskegee Airman of WWII.  It was planted in the fields where Cesar Chavez spoke.  It marched with Martin Luther King Jr.  It rocketed into space on the shoulder patches of women, gays, Hispanic, Asian, and African American astronauts.  Today, it waves high over the White House.  It is a flag for everyone, of every color, of every race, of every creed, and of every orientation, but the privilege of living under this flag does not come without cost.  Nor should it come without respect.

The nation and everything it strives for is embodied in the American Flag.  We strive to be more inclusive.  We strive to be more understanding.  We strive to fix the problems that plague our society.  But in striving to do so, we must have a common bond; some symbol that reminds us of our past struggles and propels us to a brighter, more enlightened future.  That symbol is the American flag.

I would, once again, ask the Presidents and Athletic Directors to convey my message to your teams.  The young student-athletes are future leaders of this nation.  By showing respect for the flag, they are making it possible for America to be everything we dreamed it could be.

Thank you.