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Colin Kaepernick

Standing Up for Colin Kaepernick

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to raise awareness for the “[oppression of] black people and people of color” in 2016, his protest elicited instantaneous backlash. Dubbed spoiled, selfish, and anti-American, Kaepernick felt the ramifications of his protest immediately: he was shortly benched for the remainder of the season and has not returned to the field since the season of his protests. The fervor of the backlash to his protests raged from talk show hosts to congressmen to, unsurprisingly, President Trump

For instance, consider the prominent Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s reaction to Kaepernick’s protests. She questions whether “we have the fortitude, courage, and determination to stand up to those who threaten our values” in the context of the NFL protests. Her ominous inquisition begs a few questions: What values, exactly, does Pirro see threatened by Kaepernick’s protests? To whom is she referring with the collective pronoun ‘we’? The answer, sadly, has little to do with Kaepernick or his protest. Pirro knowingly implies that black people are “threatening” the status quo—which oftentimes favors white people above minorities. At its crux, the protests are rooted in seemingly non-controversial ideas (the idea that black people should be treated justly should not outrage anyone); however, the fact that they are coming from black Americans rather than white ones provokes widespread backlash and “threaten our values” —referring to the values of white Americans.  The backlash to the protests reveal a dark truth about America: white people still control most of the power and influence in this country, and they do not intend to cede their power. Pirro’s intimations are reminiscent of the ominous “you will not replace us” language of the Charlottesville’s white supremacist riots. Perhaps more troublingly, President Donald Trump recently describes his personal utopia as a fantasy world where NFL owners would say to protesting athletes, “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!” There is nothing anti-American about expressing an opinion; however, using the presidency to silence an opinion runs counter to the most fundamental of American values. Unfortunately, Trump and Pirro are not anomalous exceptions in their reactions; they are part of a systemic pattern against challenges to the status quo, which, ironically, is exactly what the football players are protesting.

Kaepernick’s protests proved effective — Google reports Kaepernick was within the Top 10 most searched athletes of 2016, an especially difficult feat to achieve during an Olympics year.  Eventually, Kaepernick’s movement spread across the NFL — players and teams across the league unified in an attempt to use their platform to raise awareness to the largely ignored or underemphasized issue of the unfair treatment of black Americans, ranging from the police shootings of innocent black people to the flawed criminal justice system that puts black Americans at a significant disadvantage. His reputation tarnished and his career effectively over, Kaepernick incited further controversy when he was unveiled as the face of Nike’s newest advertisement campaign. While many praised Nike and the ad, others burned their Nike shoes and made #BoycottNike trend on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement of Kaepernick as the face of their ad campaign, Nike released a video, narrated by and starring Kaepernick, which features numerous young athletes who have pursued their athletic dreams—often overcoming rough beginnings or physical disabilities to do so. In fact, Kaepernick is the only prominent person featured in the ad who is not featured demonstrating his athleticism. Rather, Kaepernick, once a starting NFL quarterback, now walks alone through a city, while the buildings behind him project the successes of the other athletes from the video—a woman wearing a Nike hijab, a refugee who played soccer in the world cup, a young Serena Williams, alongside others. The symbolism is powerful: Kaepernick, instead of quarterbacking, is ushering in a more diverse, inclusive sporting world.

Colin Kaepernick—like all other people—is not perfect. Perhaps he did not sacrifice everything in his protests. Perhaps he has used the traction from the movement he created to fill his pockets. Perhaps he did turn down an offer to play as a backup quarterback. Maybe not. But what he has done—and what SPEC so tirelessly strives to do—is start a conversation. Kaepernick, if nothing else, has sparked a movement that has challenged people to thoughtfully examine the treatment of black people. People often talk about the merits of sparking a conversation or protesting civilly. Kaepernick just did it.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards







A Salute to Service

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

In week 10 of the 2012 NFL season, a young and inexperienced quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, checked into the game to replace the recently concussed Alex Smith. Kaepernick churned out a mediocre game and led the 49ers into a tie, an occurrence that the league had not seen in the previous 4 seasons. It would be an understatement to say this first game would be the only history that Kaepernick would make in his football career.

As Kaepernick was establishing himself as a prominent quarterback, the US began to experience an unprecedented amount of incidents pertaining to police brutality against black males. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and many others became the faces of this sudden and unfortunate trend in law enforcement. The story was all too familiar: a black male found himself in an encounter with an officer (or gun owner) and somehow ended up dead. This national problem was only exacerbated by questionable court decisions, violent post-riots, and social media. For Kaepernick, he had seen enough. On August 14, 2017, Kaepernick sat during the anthem for a preseason game. Initially, the first protest was not noticed until Kaepernick formally called attention to himself on August 28, prompting the nation to notice and form opinions. Kaepernick explained how he did not “want to show pride to a nation that oppresses people of color” and how that concept alone prevented him from standing during the anthem.

To provide context about Kaepernick’s protests, the truth about the NFL and its relation to the Department of Defense (DOD) should be explained. It was not until 2009 that the NFL changed their legislation regarding the anthem, then “encouraging” players to stand, when before, standing was not mandated, and some teams chose to stay in their locker rooms. In 2015, it was revealed that the DOD hashed out 5.4 million dollars to a number of NFL teams to coordinate “patriotic salutes.” If you have ever been to a football game, the short pauses in the match to recognize veterans, or even the choosing of military personnel to sing the anthem are all manufactured stunts hoping to increase recruitment rates.

As we all know, Kaepernick’s protest faced enormous national backlash. To start, many labeled the protest as disrespectful and out of place for an NFL athlete. A popular opinion was that a pampered, successful NFL player should not take any political stances, while others called the demonstration inconsiderate to the thousands of servicemen and women who risk their life daily. Even Alejandro Villanueva, a well-respected guard for the Steelers who is in the military, said “ I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down.”

Considering this backlash, it is important to remember that protesting is a constitutional right. People choose to silence Kaepernick due to his wealth and fame as he, as well as many other African-American athletes, is seen as “lucky” in the public eye. Society sees these successful black men and hopes to keep them in check by belittling their political views or rights as Americans. And for those who deem the protests “unpatriotic,” is it wrong for one to want a better future for their race, a better place for their kids? Ironically, Kaepernick’s actions are the most American because, though unpopular to some, they challenge the faults our society attempts to keep hidden. Kaepernick’s kneeling is a direct manifestation of what our servicemen and women fight for on a daily basis: the ability to stand up (or kneel) to our government.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

Mr. Jermaine Thibodeaux (Former SJS History Teacher) Podcast

in Podcasts by

Mr. Thibodeaux Speaks to Sam Faraguna about Confederate Statues, NFL Protests, and more.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
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