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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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq2CvmgoO7I

www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/09/24/judge-jeanine-pirro

www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/sports/trump-nfl-nba.html

trends.google.com/trends/topcharts#vm=cat&geo=US&date=2016&cid

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/

 

An Open Letter to Mohamed Salah: How a Simple Gesture is Combatting Islamophobia

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Dear Mohamed Salah,

In spite of the hate you are unfairly receiving for your Muslim faith, I would like to congratulate your successes this year.  As a fellow soccer player, your skill on the pitch leaves me speechless. I was watching one of your games with my friends, and once you got the ball the room fell silent. We were caught in a trance, watching you weave through City’s defense as if you were playing a video game. Also, taking Liverpool to the Champions League Final and Egypt to the World Cup is an incredible feat! Ballon d’Or candidate and Premiership Player of the Month! You have truly put on a show.

Although most people focus on your wonderful play, I’m more amazed by something else: your celebration.  Anyone who watches Liverpool frequently probably knows it by now: You score, you run to the stands, you cheer with your teammates, then, you jog back to the circle, drop to your knees, raise your hands to the sky, then bow, prostrating yourself to the world.  When you perform this ritual, the crowd seems to go silent, letting you connect with Allah; then you stand up and everyone goes crazy again. This is what should be celebrated.

While Britain is fighting Islamophobia and the amount of hate crimes against Muslims are rising each year, you, a Muslim from North Africa, are unifying England, one goal at a time. Your brave actions in a country that seemingly hates your faith make you a role model to anyone, Muslim or other, who is scared to practice their religion in a non-inclusive environment. However well you perform on the soccer field, nothing will outweigh your influence on Islamophobia in England.  No, I’m not saying that you will suddenly make all Brits tolerant of other religions, but you could play a major role in creating a more accepting England and, by extension, world. All I know is that fans sing songs about you when you take the field, and whether you intend to or not, you are making British Muslims proud and making the world a more inclusive place. Please continue what you are doing. Thank you on behalf of everyone you’ve inspired, on and off the pitch.

From,

Jack Trent

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/world/europe/mo-salah-liverpool-champions-league.html

Concussions: The Hard Hitting Impact They Have

in Science & Technology by

The stadium erupts.  Fans are yelling in support, the guys next to you are fist bumping, and the cheerleaders are dancing and shouting.  Your team’s safety just leveled the opposing team’s wide receiver, and you couldn’t be happier.  While big plays like this are adrenaline pumping and rack up millions of views on youtube, it’s the allure to disaster that draws the viewer in.  Few people think about the wide receiver on the ground, helmet off, being checked out by the medical staff.  Everyone remembers the safety who put him there.  These types of plays, and football’s nature of hard hits and violent impacts, are why many parents are not allowing their kids to play youth football.  A recent study researched by Boston University proved that kids who began play tackle football after the age of 12 had significantly fewer cognitive and behavioral problems than those who began playing before 12.  The human brain rapidly develops between the ages of 10 and 12, and this is the impetus for a movement many scientists are pushing for: no tackle football until a child is in their teenage years.  Parents, coaches, and leagues are starting to take notice.  Pop Warner, the biggest youth football league in the country, has reduced contact in practice, changed game rules, and even banned kickoffs, one of the most dangerous and violent aspects of the game.  It is estimated that children from 9-12 playing tackle football can sustain 240-585 hits to the head each season.  While new CTE data is coming out frequently, we all know one thing: football is bad for your brain.  And yes, precautions have been taken to make football safer, players get ejected for targeting and rules about when and who to block have changed, there is still a brain injury problem ominously hanging around the sport of football.  Am I saying we should stop playing football? Absolutely not.  All I am saying is that more work needs to be done to protect our players on the field, so they can live a life off the field.  This could be done with improved helmets, more flag football being played while young, or new scientific breakthroughs.  Whatever the fix may be, we need to find it soon. Until then, we should probably stop celebrating the bone crunching hits and try to solve our concussion conundrum.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/sports/football/tackle-football-brain-youth.html
https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/25/health/cte-nfl-players-brains-study/index.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtCgquOsXeo
Graphic Design by Jack Trent
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
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