Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once famously stated that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Much to the chagrin of racists, businessmen and the like, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick famously used his platform to protest against injustice and double standards within our criminal justice system, kneeling during the performance of our national anthem on game days.
Despite continuing ridiculing, scrutiny and bashing of his actions, Colin Kaepernick continued to refuse to keep his opinions in the dark. As a result, the outspoken and heavily opposed Kaepernick was quickly benched and later cut by the San Francisco 49ers organization. In reference to Kaepernick and his fellow protestors (including defensive backs Malcom Jenkins and Eric Reid), president Trump ineloquently remarked that team owners should “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now out, he’s fired! he’s fired!”, later stating that those who kneeled “maybe shouldn’t be in the country”.
Many fellow players, fans, and NFL staff saw kneeling as disrespectful to “the flag”, despite several quotes from Kaepernick in which he expressed great respect for the flag and American veterans.
In 2016, he responded to a question with the notion that “This country stands for freedom, justice, and liberty for all. And it’s not happening right now”. Perhaps it is not that Kaepernick and company were disrespectful, but rather it was difficult for the President and many others to acknowledge and recognize clear flaws within our law enforcement system. Packers quarterback and two time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers issued a statement backing the protests on Wednesday, June 3rd, claiming “It has never been about an anthem or a flag”.
Despite a surge of nationwide support for the black lives matter movement after the murder of George Floyd, many fail to empathize for the hurting African American community, and to educate themselves on systemic racism and other great American failures.
In what is supposedly the “Land of the Free”, why does this ideal not apply to people of color, even after 56 years since the establishment of the Civil Rights act? Is there truly “Liberty and Justice for all” in that black man Willie Simmons has served 38 years for a $9 robbery, while police officer Timothy Loehmann received no sentencing after killing 12 year old Tamir Rice? Why is it that George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, is found not guilty? Why is it that rapist Brock Turner is given Three months in jail for raping a girl behind a dumpster, while the George Floyd is murdered without due process after using what was suspected to be a fake $20 bill?
Kaepernick’s actions were not about a flag! Many blatantly disregard repeated cases of police brutality and racial profiling, spewing out uninformed and insensitive phrases like “All Lives Matter” too spite a rightfully angry African American community.
Lastly, what gives wealthy white high school students the right to say “shut up and dribble”or “Just play the game”? Kaepernick’s controversial activism has also reestablished the humanity of athletes, who have every right to express their opinions.
In conclusion, no one will know for sure what has kept Kaepernick off NFL rosters. The NFL recently claimed that “The NFL, Players and our partners have supported programs and initiatives throughout the country to address systemic racism”.
This is ironic, as the aforementioned Reid and Kaepernick were released from their teams. Many players who supported the movement (including wide receiver Brandon Marshall) lost endorsement deals, and kneeling was prohibited. What we do know and have seen in recent weeks is that athletes will no longer be silent. Kaepernick succeeded in setting a precedent for athletes using their platform. While he may have failed to revive his career, Kaepernick has redefined the role of athletes in society.