The Silent Protest Heard 'Round the Country: The Colin Kaepernick Controversy
Colin Kaepernick has been public enemy number one in the sports world for the past two weeks. Usually, a sports story dies after about a couple days until another hot topic comes up that draws higher ratings. That is one of the reasons I stood away from this topic, believing that it would blow over in a couple of days.
Like everyone with a twitter account, I had my opinion about what the San Francisco quarterback did and I am so glad I didn’t write this earlier. There are so many strong issues with this one action made by Kaepernick, that to rush to an opinion would have been a complete injustice to the right that every American has, the right to protest.
The sit heard around the world happened on the San Francisco 49ers third preseason game on August 26th vs The Green Bay Packers. While the entire stadium along with NFL players and coaches rose to pay their respects for the country, Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench with his head down while the national anthem played. Once the game ended, Kaep was asked why he did not rise. He stated "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”.
This was a powerful statement that stems from the racial injustices that run rampant throughout this country. From Trayvon Martin to Alton Sterling we have seen countless black men die by the hands of police officers. By the next morning and days to come, ESPN, FOX and every media outlet in between were speaking of Colin Kaepernick. A few things stuck out to me: the first, was how the media spun the situation. Kaep was made out to be against the military. Their main take away from this civil protest was not the injustices or inequality of this country, but was how a “back-up quarterback” had the audacity to disrespect the American military by not rising for the national anthem.
I was not surprised this was the reaction taken by the media. When they - the media and corporate America - don’t like the message they will kill the messenger. Kaep was discredited and shown as a no good quarterback who hates the American military so no one would or should take him or his message seriously. Like sharks who smelled blood in the water, all the media pundits, former and current NFL players attacked Kaep so they could get their moment in the sun.
The ones that stood out the most were Rodney Harrison - former safety for the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots and NBC analyst - and Drew Brees, the current New Orleans Saints QB. The former All Pro safety Harrison stated “I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick – he’s not black.” Now I could poke holes in to Mr. Harrison’s statement all day, but the main one would be, why do you have to be black to protest and disagree with the way African Americans have been treated in this country? Someone tries to shed light on a huge problem in this country that affects people like Rodney Harrison and his people and instead of backing them, you decide to discredit Kaep and question his “blackness”. Well done Mr. Harrison, at least he had the decency to apologize later but still made a fool of himself doing so saying: “I never even knew he was mixed”.
Drew Brees also called out Kaep. Just to give some background, both of the Saints QB’s grandfathers served during World War II. Brees tried to have a politically correct response by both shunning Kaep’s actions, but acknowledging his right to protest.
However, Brees was overcome with his American military patriotism which led him to these words “Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.” And “Like, I could shed a tear every time the national anthem plays if I would allow myself because it’s that powerful”. My response to Mr. Brees comments are very simple: Really? If you could cry every time you hear the national anthem, I wonder how you react when you see the rights and everything the anthem represents being thrown out the window when it comes to the African American community.
Did Brees shed a tear when he watched Alton Sterling get gunned down in New Orleans, the state he calls home? I searched high and low for a Drew Brees quote on the Alton Sterling and could not find a single one. This is not to say that Brees is a bad person and doesn’t care about the black community, but if you are going to speak out on Kaep’s decision to SIT for what he feels is right then do not discredit him. Don’t speak out against Kaep because you are in the majority. Speak out on the real issues going on in your own backyard or are you just afraid to lose your Wrangler Jeans sponsors?
We live in such a lynch mob society, it’s as if everyone is looking for affirmation instead of information. Today’s culture is so afraid to step out on a limb and will condemn those who do. I am so proud of what Colin Kaepernick did. He saw a problem and decided to do what he felt was right. Too often we speak on these issues for a few days then the Pokémon Go app comes out or a new picture of Kim Kardashian posing nude comes out and the real issues get put on the back burner.
Colin Kaepernick decided to put himself and career on the line and it’s very admirable. And this past weekend during the final NFL preseason weekend, he was not alone. Kaep’s teammate Eric Reid as well as Seattle Seahawk cornerback Jeremy Lane joined Kaep in not rising for the National Anthem. There has been a great historical precedent of sports figures fighting and protesting for equality in this country such as Carl Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many more.
Today’s athletes are more determined in building their brand and are afraid to speak out. Kaep may have not have the achievements and accolades of the men I just stated, but since our Ali’s and Lewis’ of today won’t speak out for what is right, Kaep will have to be our guy. There is power in numbers and hopefully Colin Kaepernick’s actions can start a movement and have more players join him. Change will not come overnight, but if we keep only speaking about the issues, then it will keep the problems in front of us.
Every time Colin Kaepernick, and any athlete for that matter, do not rise for the national anthem, it will be shining light on the inequalities of the United States of America