If you don’t pay much attention to sports, chances are, over these past two weeks, you have been bombarded from the news, social media, and possible conversation over San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick. Ringing any bells? Perhaps you’ve seen as many messages of support such as #VeteransforKapernick and memes with the outline of his silhouette now proudly sporting a FRO. Maybe you’ve even seen his now best-selling NFL jersey flying off the shelves. It could be the latter in which you’ve seen posts, tweets, and comments calling him everything from un-American and un-Patriotic, traitor, and my favorite “not really being Black,” (since he is biracial) regarding his current stance in choosing to sit down/take a knee during the national anthem. If you scroll through some of the tamer social media posts, this doesn’t even rock the tip of the iceberg regarding how vicious people have been in their judgement of his protest.
The act of defiance has sparked national conversation regarding the history of the anthem and what it means to be an American in the 21rst century. The question many sports fans are wondering is… How should our athletes behave regarding political statements? Is it too far? Is the flag so sacred that Kaepernick’s act is toting a dangerous line? It’s been pointed out that Kaepernick is not the first athlete to make a stance in times of social justice with revered athletes like Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson immortalized for their bravery in times of adversity. Athletes using their platform to make a statement has been one that many sports fans have been calling for in light of increased brutality and victimization of minorities in the past few years.
Kaepernick states: “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he said late last month. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Despite pointing out several times that he has no mal intent or disrespect towards military members, many fans have pointed out the flag represents universal freedoms, beliefs, and ideals that reflect who we are as Americans. His jersey is being worn in support as much as people are buying it to stomp on it, burn it, and trash it to show their distaste for his stance. Celebrities, fellow athletes, musicians and politicians have even contributed thoughts on the statement that has caused an interesting ripple of effect of actions we’re now seeing at football games. J. Cole, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Steph Curry, Kareem Abdul Jabar and Tina Knowles are just a few who have been in support of the athlete by wearing his jersey or offering thoughtful insight into the conversation at hand.
Kaepernick’s choice in taking a knee has caused unwavering doubt and conversation regarding those inherent liberties extended to all Americans-yet is not reflected in the current way our political and socioeconomic community has been. When prompted with questions regarding Kaepernick’s choice, President Obama stated: “He’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement. I think there is a long history of sports figures doing so.”
Coming from a firm and long standing history of military members in my family as well as residing in Fort Hood, Texas (the largest army base in the world)- I do understand the perspective that Kaepernick’s actions could be perceived as disrespectful. However; if he had completed the action without context or regard for his choice outside of social justice endeavors, I would be upset. That’s not the case. He has stated on many occasions this specific choice is not because he doesn’t respect or acknowledge the ongoing sacrifice of our military servicemen, but does want the sacrifices that are made in regards to our liberties and freedoms extended to everyone. Regardless of what your personal opinion is on the matter, we can all agree that living in the United States alone does not ensure those inalienable rights are granted to all, not in the least. If you don’t agree with me, I’d suggest looking to the left and right of you, turning on the TV, listening to the conversations we have on justice and race. Do the freedoms, liberties, and justice you hold close to you and think of regarding the flag ring true for everyone? If you have to think twice…you may want to reconsider how valid Kaepernick’s platform is right now and how to engage the true heart of that conversation.