I stand (or sit) with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on his sitting protest during the national anthem before football games to protest oppression of minorities. He is trying to draw attention and keep the conversation going about racial injustice, especially police brutality. I am happy to say it is working.
The conversation his protests have ignited are well worth the criticism Kaepernick has received. His protests have captured every form of the public’s attention, gaining support from veterans and from President Obama himself.
Much of the firestorm of controversy surrounds Kaepernick himself. I am not surprised that many people’s first reaction to the protest arose in the form of accusations that Kaepernick himself is Muslim.
“I have great respect for the religion, know a lot of people that are Muslims and are phenomenal people, but I think that [rumor of conversion] comes along with people’s fear of this protest, as well as Islamophobia in this country,” said Kaepernick.
Unfortunately these protests don’t happen without some repercussions. His game hasn’t been the best lately and he has been demoted to backup. He will only play if starter Blaine Gabbert is injured or ineffective. Kaepernick is the NFL’s most expensive backup receiving $13.9 million this year alone.
Kaepernick has inspired many sports stars to protest in solidarity. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall and 49ers teammate Eric Reid joined Kaepernick. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the anthem and will continue to do so whenever she gets the chance. During her team’s game against the Washington Spirits, the national anthem was played while the players were still in the locker room so Rapinoe couldn’t “hijack” the event for a “personal matter.”
I believe it is always interesting when sports figures get involved in social issues. Many incidents in history have provoked this same amount of controversy. Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics with heads bowed and black-gloved fists raised in silent protest against racism. After the games, they remained unemployed for long periods of time and were deemed untouchable, but those protests altered our way of life.
Kaepernick is taking initiative and sparking conversation. Our way of life has come from, and thrives because of, individuals standing up for what they believe in and creating controversy. Some disagree on the particular method used fix the issue, but at the very least we can agree that avoiding the issue completely is no solution. Kaepernick’s actions are legal, and he is exercising his right as an American to have an opinion and stand up for it. Figures in our history have worked very hard to ensure the right to protest, and I am supportive of Kaepernick’s efforts to change this country.
“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,” he said.