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“Standing up” for What’s Right

Colin Kaepernick has been the center of attention as athletes across the nation have been kneeling during the national anthem in protest. || Source: US Today

During the end of the 2016 summer, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, became both one of the most talked about and one of the most hated athletes in all of American sports overnight. Unlike many other athletes, he did not do this through his play on field or his words after the game, but instead through one simple action before the first whistle was even blown. What I am referring to is Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem. Instead of standing like the other hundreds of thousand of people that night in San Francisco, Kaepernick decided to sit down on the bench to the dismay of many. The next day Kaepernick explained his decision by saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people … to me this is bigger than football.”  While there is an  ongoing argument  whether his protest was justified and should be allowed in the NFL has split the general population, only one thing is for sure, Kaepernick’s protest has grabbed the attention of the entire country.

Personally, I do not have a problem with Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel to raise awareness of Black oppression in America.  In fact, not only do I not have a problem with it,  I feel that his protest exemplifies what America is all about. He is simply exercising his rights given to him by the first amendment of our constitution. Also, the facts do side with Kaepernick’s argument. It has been statistically proven in the past number of years that African Americans are more likely to be brutalized by the police, given unfair sentences for small crimes and are still discriminated in their daily lives.  I believe, the people who say it is disrespectful to America for him to kneel during the star spangled banner are being senseless. There is a reason why players kneel on the field when a fellow athlete is injured, it is to show respect to that injured player. In Kaepernick’s situation, he is kneeling to show he recognizes the anthem and why people continue to stand, he is not doing it to shame America or ridicule his peers for singing along, he is simply not standing to call attention to his belief and he has accomplished that. It also clear that the critics of Kaepernick’s protest who have said that his kneeling will have will ultimately have no effect on calling attention to his belief has been disproven. While no significant changes have been seen in the treatment of African Americans in our country, week by week more and more NFL players have joined Kaepernick’s in opting not to stand for the anthem and more and more attention is emerging.

On the other hand, some of these players have chosen other ways to show display their beliefs on the current state of blacks in America. Here is where my only problem lies with these protests. Beginning in week two  of the NFL season,  multiple high profile players stood up and  rose their right fists during the star spangled anthem. For those who are unsure whether this action is similar to kneeling or sitting, it is the complete opposite. The raised fist originally became popular through an African American revolutionary group known as the Blank Panthers. While the group’s original beliefs consisted of equal rights and protection of blacks, overtime the group became labeled as a modern example of black supremacy due to their violent protests against the police. Though they may not be aware of it, NFL players raising their fists in pride they are representing themselves as black supremacists who believe violence is justified  to display their emotions. This completely contradicts why NFL players are protesting the national anthem (in a peaceful protest of kneeling) and instead displays a negative message to their fans. Though, I do not believe, the NFL should  be able to fine or suspend these players because it takes away their civil liberties, I would not be surprised if they ended up doing so. The NFL already was a weak reputation of a league full of “women beaters” and “thugs” and do not need another controversy to further destroy their image.

While as a average citizen I do support Kaepernick’s protest, as a coach I would have a far different view. Since his first protest, the media has been extremely critical of his Head Coach Chip Kelly . Though they weren’t intended to, Kaepernick’s protests have often had a negative reflection on Kelly as he has been questioned on his control of his players and his locker room. If I were a coach, I would most likely have released or traded Kaepernick by now. This is very similar to the struggle of Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, to find a team that would keep him. While I have absolutely no issue with either of their beliefs, as I coach I wouldn’t want my team to be constantly distracted by the media because of players who while talented, are clearly expendable.

While Kaepernick’s efforts to change the way our country treats African Americans through kneeling may not have made immediate changes, it has led to a chain reaction that will would hopefully lead to a change in the U.S. in the future.  Even though giving birth to these protests may cause Kaepernick to have to look for a new job, that may just be the price for “standing up” for what’s right.

About the author

Michael Discolo