The last two weeks have had people from all walks of life, living in the United States, divided on an issue. No, I’m not talking about voting for Trump or Hilary. That’s another column for another time. I’m talking about the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stance or lack thereof for the national anthem. On August 26th, Kaepernick chose to sit down, for the third time, during the national anthem. For some reason the first two times went unnoticed until now. He said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The NFL released this statement, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” Why is the message and intent of Kaepernick’s right as a citizen getting lost in his actions? Racism. This was and is still a major issue in the world today. First, let’s consider Kaepernick’s background.
Kaepernick was born by a 19-year old single white mother and a black father, who left before he was born. His birth mother placed him up for adoption to Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, who are also white. Kaepernick would be a great quarterback at Nevada University and get drafted in the 2nd round by the 49ers. He led them to a Super Bowl in 2012. If it wasn’t for the NFL wanting Ray Lewis to retire a winner, Kaepernick would have a ring. Even in 2013, the team was one tipped pass away from going to the Super Bowl again. His abilities to play quarterback at a high level earned him a six year $126 million contract in 2014. Two years later, he is being vilified and crucified by former athletes, not because he can’t play, but because he is exercising his first amendment right. He is now seen as someone unpatriotic.
Former black New England Patriots player Rodney Harrison said, “I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black. He can not understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single (day) basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.” How ignorant can you be Harrison! First, he was applauded as a black quarterback starting a Super Bowl (fourth to do so at the time) three years ago. Second, who crowned you speaker of the NAACP and all black people?
Former white Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason said, “I cannot say it in the strongest, most direct way, that it’s an embarrassment and it’s about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been. And I don’t care what the cause is. The NFL football field is not a place for somebody to further their political ambitions. Can you imagine if a player went out on the field with a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat and let’s vote for (Donald) Trump? It’s the same thing.” Well Boomer, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did just that in a post-game interview. He had the same hat strategically placed in his locker for all to see. I guess Boomer missed seeing that, like he missed a Super Bowl ring. Once again the point is being missed. Kaepernick said, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody.” Thousands of veterans and people currently in the armed forces, backed up Kaepernick. They mentioned that they fight for people like him, so that they can have the freedom to express themselves.
Not to be out done, we have people in glass houses throwing stones. White NASCAR driver Tony Stewart tweeted, “I’m sorry but @Kaepernick7 needs to learn the fact about police before running his dumb*** mouth! He has no clue what they go thru! #idiot”. Two years ago Stewart was convicted of vehicular homicide. Former black New York Giants running back Tiki Barber said, “I don’t commend him for sitting and not honoring this country and our flag.” Barber divorced his wife of 11 years while she was seven months pregnant with their twins. Not to mention he was having an affair at the time. Sometimes it’s better to just be quiet. U.S. tennis star John Isner said, ”I thought that was pathetic from him. The cause he was going for, fine by me – but don’t do it in that fashion. He could have found some other ways to present his voice there. I’m a big Blaine Gabbert fan now.” John Tortorella, the white U.S. men’s hockey coach, made the statement “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.” It’s clear to see that this issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
Several other athletes and prominent figures have had their comments of disdain and praise for Kaepernick. What is interesting is that just a few months ago, the entire world mourned the passing of Muhammed Ali. He was considered the greatest athlete of all time. It wasn’t because he was undefeated as a boxer, but because he stood up for what was right. He was the “People’s Champ” because he sat down and refused to go fight in a war he didn’t believe in. It was his stance on social issues that made him great. Now, Kaepernick is being ostracized for doing the exact same thing. He realizes that he could lose endorsements, and even his job. However, he is standing up for what he believes in by sitting down. Whether you agree or disagree with what Kaepernick is doing or how he is doing it, you are revealing your own stance.