The Colin Kaepernick Conundrum
Colin Kaepernick has sparked a national controversy by performing a quiet act of resistance: kneeling during America’s pre-game National Anthem. His protest first grabbed my attention through Facebook; my timeline was filled with people who were outraged and shocked at Kaepernick’s behavior. Since then, he has been the center of social media’s attention — successfully reaching his goal to raise awareness about police brutality, racial inequality, and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The playing of the anthem is a tradition before all professional sports games, giving spectators a few moments of patriotic silence to reflect on the sacrifices that won America its freedom. Kaepernick, the 28-year-old San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback is rightfully exercising his First Amendment rights to protest. Choosing to kneel instead of sit, he claims, is not a show of disrespect to those who fight for our country. He has given people a reason to talk: ranging from the rise of the popular hashtag #VeteransforKaepernick, where military veterans defended the player’s actions, to more extreme reactions like videos of former fans angrily setting their Kaepernick jerseys on fire.
But to address the bigger question: Is Kaepernick successful with his silent protest? I would conclude yes. Yes, because he got what he wanted: debates, awareness and attention. Yes, because many other athletes such as teammate Eric Reid, Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks, and Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall have all joined him in his protest during the anthem. Although he has been bashed on social media by celebrities and fans who think he is being disrespectful, many other Americans have shown their support and argue that his protest is for an important cause.
His decision has become so prominent that Time magazine announced Kaepernick will have the honor of being on their October 3rd cover. It has been just over a month since Kaepernick started his protest for equal rights, and already 15 people of color have been killed by police — most recently, an unarmed African American man named Terence Crutcher who was shot and killed after he refused to comply with police orders. These numbers prove his point that police brutality is a pressing issue that can no longer be avoided. Kaepernick believes that America should stand by our anthem’s promise of “liberty and justice for all,” treating everyone with fairness. Putting his money where his mouth is, he has promised to publicly donate $1 million to community charities over the next ten months.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick in a statement released after the most recent shooting occurred.
The NFL has decided not to take action against Kaepernick because he is not violating laws or harming others. Instead, they released a statement saying: that “[they] recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Yes, Kaepernick could have gone about his protest in different ways, but would it have been controversial enough to get anyone’s attention? Kaepernick is kneeling down for those who have been treated unfairly, for those who do not have voices that can trigger a major conversation for systemic change.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed… If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right,” Kaepernick said.
Instead of turning a blind eye like others do, Kaepernick protests because he thinks our country is capable of changing for the better
Emilia Williamson is a second year Literary Journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.