The world stayed silent for ex-NFL player Darren Sharper, who raped at least nine women. We could hear a pin dropping after a video emerged of Mississippi State lineman Jeffery Simmons punching a woman in the face. The stands stayed full when New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was arrested on domestic violence charges, but when a man takes a stand for injustice, America riots.
After a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26, NFL Media caught an exclusive interview with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, in which he explained why he did not stand for the national anthem: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Since then, people have taken this statement and twisted it all sorts of ways, and, of course, told him that if he does not like this country then he should very well leave it. “I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on KIRO radio in Seattle. Conservatives have been up in arms about Kaepernick’s protest but, as usual, fail to actually understand what is going on.
A protest is designed to catch the attention of the people around and let them know there is a problem. A protest is a critique of the society that we live in. If one cannot look within his or her own world and say it can be better, then they are being disillusioned by the system as a whole.
Conservatives seemed to think that the troops are being disrespected, as if the pledge and the anthem somehow belongs to the veterans. Well, to conservatives’ surprise, there was a huge outpouring of respect and solidarity from the troops. U.S. veterans started the hashtag #VeteransWithKaepernick on Twitter and wrote an open letter showing their support.
“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” Veterans for Kaepernick wrote. This letter was obviously was not signed by every veteran, and every veteran did not tweet, but this shows how ridiculous it is to suggest Kaepernick is somehow disrespecting our troops.
Some conservatives have brought up how much money he makes as an athlete — that he should be grateful and not complain. Conservatives believe he cannot have an opinion, because they don’t pay him to do so, but doesn’t his star status make him more of an asset? He is rich, he is successful, he has created a platform, he is a role model.
Kaepernick has pledged to donate money since the protest and does not care about losing any money over the protest. “I am not looking for approval,” he said. “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.” After sales of his jerseys soared, he issued a statement on his Instagram: “I wasn’t expecting my jersey sales to jump to number one because of [my protest], but it shows the people’s belief that we can achieve justice and equality for ALL!” The only way I can repay you for the support is to return the favor by donating all the proceeds I receive from my jersey sales back into the communities!”
If we did not have a problem in this country, would black members of Texas’ Beaumont Bulls youth football team be receiving threats for taking a knee at their football game? “Our children are receiving death threats from people saying things like hang those monkeys, they should’ve died on 9/11 and they’re going to kill each other anyway,” April Parkerson, whose son plays on the team, told the New York Daily News.
Kaepernick is sitting for something important, like the greats before him did. Boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused the draft of the Vietnam War, because he did not want to fight for a country that didn’t fight for him. Jackie Robinson also did not stand and salute the flag, saying “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
Everyone has their right to be free in America. That’s what the troops fight for. They do not fight for us to stand up, place our nacho-cheese-covered fingers over our hearts and belch out the national anthem. Critiquing Kaepernick for protesting is unpatriotic, because if you are not sitting in solidarity for a better America, you are standing as an oppressor.