By Eli Hearne (Op-Ed Editor).
On August 26th, San Francisco 49ers Quarterback was fighting for more than just the starting quarterback position in his third preseason game.
Following the commentator’s usual call to ‘rise for the singing of the national anthem,’ all but one stood in Green Bay’s Levi’s Stadium, Colin Kaepernick. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after the game.
Up went the wrongful fire of hatred and criticism for the man exercising his first amendment: freedom of speech.
Out came the Twitter and Facebook posts saying how disrespectful Kaepernick’s act was to the men and women fighting for our country.
Specifically, the video of The Blazes “Final Thoughts” blew up as an anti-Kaepernick rant in which Tomi Lahren, a reporter for The Blaze, calls the quarterback a “whiney, indulgent, attention-seeking crybaby.” Her video has now reached over 63 million views, and continues to rise.
Kaepernick responded to the haters saying how he doesn’t need their approval. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed.”
Others have taken a less aggressive stance against Kaepernick claiming that they do not agree with the way that he went about promoting his message, but they do agree with the message.
People that are against Kaepernick sitting during the National Anthem, but look what he did. A sub-par quarterback in the NFL fighting for his job, was able to start a revolution, and that’s largely due to his provocative act of sitting.
In the past other athletes have attempted to use their positions in the spotlight to create change. This includes NBA stars Lebron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony who prior to ESPN’s award show, The ESPY Awards, who made a powerful statement for social change. Specifically, they called out fellow athletes to use their platform to push for social change following the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, as well as the five police shot in Dallas.
Although this act got some shares around the social-media world, it generally failed spark participation from fellow athletes and did not create much discussion on the topic of race.
Yet Kaepernick has actually gotten people motivated. Any discussion about social issues is good, especially when it is about topics that our society is afraid to have public debate about in today’s politically correct world.
The President of the United States, the man who finally broke the color barrier in the White House, generally took Kaepernick’s side. But he did say that he does not know much about the situation. “I gotta confess that I haven’t been thinking about football while I’ve been over here and I haven’t been following this closely…but my understanding, at least, is that is he’s exercising his constitutional right to make a statement,” Barack Obama said while in China.
“I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that need to be talked about and if nothing else what he’s doing has generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about,” Obama added.
Other NFL athletes have joined Kaepernick in protest by taking a knee during the national anthem. The list includes big names like Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos.
Following Marshall’s protest in NFL’s regular season kickoff versus the Carolina Panthers, Marshall lost his sponsorship with Air Academy Federal Credit Union, and went on to lose his second sponsorship with CenturyLink. Yet he said it was well worth it. “I’m still doing what I believe in. It’s not going to make me lose any sleep,” Marshall said to the Broncos.
Marshall has also received large amounts of public hate through the burning of his jersey, and the use of racial slurs directed at him. Marshall’s response to the hate: a beautiful message that emulates the reasoning behind Kaepernick’s original protest.
“I’m not here to respond to the hate. I’m here to spread love and positivity. I’m a likeable guy. I was once a fan favorite for a reason. It’s cool because people can call me the N-word or cuss at me or say they wish I would break my neck all they want. There’s no backlash from me. Hate can’t drive out hate. Only love can drive out hate,” Marshall told the Broncos.
Yet the protests have not been limited to the National Football League. They have trickled down all the way to the High School level as many students have taken a kneel before their own games. According to CBSNews, in states such as New Jersey, Alabama, and even Massachusetts, students have been suspended and others have reported harassment for their acts of courage.
Players across the board are finding their own ways to show support for Kaepernick. Whether it be physically taking a knee, or raising a fist at the end of the anthem such as Patriots players Martellus Bennett and Devin McCourty, more and more players are using their platform to create social change.
There is no doubting that Kaepernick has jump started discussion on the topic of race. The substance outweighs the so-called “provocative” way that he went about doing it. It is about time that our country got a 21st century wakeup call, and reengages in discussion about race.