Simply put, the protests which started with Colin Kaepernick began when he took a seat and then a knee during the national anthem. He took a seat because he saw the core of the basis of our nation not working right. The part which isn’t working is police brutality and a lack of justice as it’s supposed to apply. The knee was because he talked with military personnel who thought sitting was disrespectful but the knee recognized the military’s patriotic sacrifice and efforts to protect our democracy, law, liberty, and justice.
So let’s be clear. The protest respects the military and their hard work. The protest respects the core of the nation. It doesn’t say our values aren’t golden and desirable, quite the opposite. It says there are pieces which are legitimately broken in practice. Calling attention to the fractures by not singing praise to the country’s symbol is symbolic in itself – because there is no protest at all without the core values.
To tell them that they can’t or shouldn’t protest tells them they aren’t a part of our core as a nation after all. The laws, liberty, and values would ring hollow. And if that’s the case, we don’t really stand for anything so why should any of us salute the flag?