National headlines usually don’t focus too much on the sideline antics of NFL players, yet one has fallen under the spotlight of scrutiny.
You should know the story well by now. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee instead of standing for the national anthem. Though the act in and of itself could have passed by the wayside, his post-game comments caused a bit of a stir.
“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 commented to the NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”
As with other situations similar to this, a media firestorm erupted. Now, under the spotlight of protest, every one who thinks they know something about social justice has thrown in their two cents in regards to this protest. Even some of the extremists have come out of the woodwork claiming that he’s converted to Islam or even that he should leave.
I’m not going to discuss the patriotism or constitutionality of this whole situation with you, but to call the facts as I see them. Here are a few to consider.
The NFL has politically washed their hand of Kaepernick. This was evident in a statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“These are all important things for us, and that moment is a very important moment. So, I don’t necessarily agree with what he is doing. We encourage our players to be respectful in that time and I like to think of it as a moment where we can unite as a country,” Goodell said in a statement to NFL Media. “Players have a platform, and it’s his right to do that.”
Jersey sales for Kaepernick have skyrocketed since the first game of protest. Yes, because of the spotlight here, Kaepernick is earning the NFL a lot of money, which is surprising since his position on the 49ers is left bench. That doesn’t just happen with bench players.
Another thing to consider is the fact that Kaepernick is not happy in San Francisco. In the early spring of this year he requested a trade from the team. He was denied that request and has been both vocal and active in his search for a new team.
Granted, Kaepernick is not the only one to openly protest in recent weeks. As of right now, the list has grown to include NFL stars Jeremy Lane and Eric Reid as well as U.S. Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe. In addition to that several WNBA teams during the summer swapped out their usual warm up shirts for T-shirts that read, “I can’t breathe.”
I applaud them all for their desires to protest inequality, but honestly, who cares? Words don’t fix problems, actions do.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change,” activist Mahatma Gandhi was noted to say about bringing about change. “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
Fixing problems requires work. From most at the level of these professional athletes, all I hear is talk. They have the power to put their money and their time where their mouths are.
Kaepernick has my respect because he has made a $1 million promise to do that. Now it is up to the rest to follow his lead and do their part to bring about change.