Today is the first day of football season.
I realize that the NFL is not a group that the majority of UU’s follow, but with 63% of Americans considering themselves a fan at some level, it is something that garners quite a bit of attention. Already the talking heads of the sports world are making their predictions as to which team will win the Lombardy trophy in February, how the Rams will handle the move to Los Angeles from St. Louis and of course, who is the sleeper pick for your fantasy football league. Football is not immune to controversy either. There was deflate-gate last year, and Ray Rice the year before that. This year’s controversary is whether the San Fransicso 49er’s back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick should bet seated or not. Usually, seating a quarterback means he is not the starter, but that is not what they mean in Kaepernick’s case.
In the first four preseason games in the 2016-17 season, Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem. No one noticed during the first game, but by the fourth game it had caused a media frenzy. Colin was asked why he remained seated during the anthem.
“Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and to make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, and that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for; freedom, liberty and justice for all and it’s not happening for all right now”
Now this isn’t the first time that an athlete has decided to make a political statement. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the 1968 Olympic games. Muhammad Ali refused to serve during Vietnam. More recently, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, then Miami Heat NBA player LeBron James and his fellow Heat players posed for an Instagram photo with hoodies on. After Michael Brown’s murder, some of the St. Louis Rams came onto the field in the “hands up, don’t shoot” stance. Heck, this isn’t even the first time an athlete has sat in protest. The Mets Carlos Delgado in 2004 sat while “God Bless America” played during the 7th inning stretch. All of these player received a lot of heat for their actions, so it’s no surprise that Kaepernick is getting a lot of grief as well.
However, during a time where the country is so polarized, Kaepernick is refusing to show respect for the most obvious symbol of America, during the National anthem, in protest over one of America’s most polarizing issues, while playing America’s most loved sport. It’s no wonder he’s getting a lot of hate. In looking for videos of Kaepernick speaking on the subject, I found a video of a fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey in effigy.
Everytime an athlete makes a controversial political statement; the same question always comes up. “Does politics have a place in sport? Is this the right way to go about making your point?”
Kaepernick’s response to this question follows:
I’m seeing things happen to people who don’t have a voice, people who don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect changes. So I’m in a position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.
I don’t understand how it’s the wrong way. To me this is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military thing, it’s a freedom that men and women that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by the contributions they have made. So I don’t see it as going about it the wrong way, this is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everybody’s attention. And when that’s done I think people can realize what the situation is and effect change.
Kaepernick saw an injustice. He felt he needed to act in order to help make change happen. I love his words, “this is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everybody’s attention. And when that’s done I think people can realize what the situation is and effect change.” He realized that staying silent was only going to allow the situation to get worse. He is doing what is morally right for him. He is standing by his convictions (by sitting).
But it’s easy for him to do, right? He’s a quarterback for a National Football team. He’s got money, he’s got respect. He’s not risking anything by doing this, right?
He only played 8 games last year due to an abysmal 2-6 record and lost his starting position last year after taking his team to the play-off two years prior. This means he is still being paid big dollars being a former starter, and giving little back to the team by being a back-up quarterback. If he wants to keep his job in San Fransicso, logic says that he keeps his head down and not cause trouble while supporting his team. The last thing he would want to do is give the head office incentive for trading him. Controversy is a huge incentive to unload Kaepernick and a huge reason for other teams not to take him.
In short, Kaepernick could lose his job and his livelihood over this.
I think Kaepernick is very aware of this. It is my belief that he understands the risks to himself by staying seated during the anthem, but he believes if he doesn’t do something to bring attention to this situation, he is not doing his part to make the world a better place. He feels morally obligated to take this risk to himself to advance the greater good.
There is risk is taking an unpopular stance, in speaking truth to power. People will get upset, you may lose friends in the process, but these are things that are bigger than us that need attention brought to them. This is why people protest in the streets, this is why we hang banners on street corners, this is why we wear those yellow t-shirts. We see that larger need and we act to support it. We are “seeing things happen to people who don’t have a voice, people who don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect changes.” We are here to add our voice to theirs, to use our privilege to bring about justice. We see the way things are and like Colin Kaepernick, we just won’t stand for it.