It’s worth pausing to remember – in the midst of all the mid-term fuss and forecasts – what happened 17 years ago. Especially in light of the Nike ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, who apparently is an icon for having “sacrificed everything.” All in order to express his beliefs.

Yes, women voters – especially college-educated female voters – will be key in the upcoming mid-terms. Yes, the Senate could just possibly go Democrat if they somehow can win a few key races. There will be plenty of time between now and early November to analyze it, to watch it on election night, and to analyze it all over again in the days and weeks afterwards.

But for now, perhaps a little reflection on Kaepernick’s Nike campaign and how it compares to those who really did sacrifice everything for a greater good on the 11th of September 17 years ago. Consider Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe and his tweet about Tom Burnett who spoke with his wife as he prepared to charge the cockpit on United Airlines Flight 93 which was heading for the White House with it’s terrorist hi-jackers ready to fly the plane full of people into America’s seat of the Executive Branch.

Burnett told his wife he loved her; asked her to pray; and then said:

Don’t worry, we’re going to do something.

The War of 1812 was perhaps a greater threat to the survival of the young republic as the British invaders burnt the White House to the ground, but on September 11, 2001, the threat possibly felt as real as then and was far more shocking for being relatively unexpected. Compared to a brutal action taken by a colonial power in the middle of a war.

No point reviewing why The Star-Spangled Banner is so powerful; every word of that poem and anthem is about that attack and about the spirit that allowed America to win that war. That same spirit embodied in Francis Scott Key’s lyrics rose up and defended America nearly two centuries later. As a police officer pointed out at a memorial on Tuesday, it included people like:

  • Port Authority Police Officer David P. LeMagne who died in the Twin Towers as he tried to help those trapped inside.

And as Mike Rowe pointed out if Nike are going to do a campaign about “sacrificing everything” for what you believe in, how about:

  • Tom Burnett, one of the heroes of Flight 93 which – without the action of Burnett and the others – would have almost certainly hit its target and once again left the White House in ruins on that September morning 17 years ago.

America contains Kaepernick’s right to protest. The First Amendment was put in place to ensure that no other power – whether a far-away monarchy that laid waste to the White House in 1814, or whether the crazed Islamic terrorists bent on destroying a society and government, more than just a building and the human lives within 187 years later – could again curtail the freedoms so recently won by the new nation.

If Nike feels they’ll sell more product to Millennials by using Kaepernick, it’s their property right and their freedom of expression to do so. But those who gave their lives so that Americans and America could remain free, is a reminder of what really was sacrificed to allow Colin Kaepernick to take a knee during the anthem at football games. An anthem to the flag so proudly hailed.

And you don’t even have to entirely disagree with Kaepernick’s views on America – as mistaken as they might be – to realize that truth. Or at least you should realize it.