The Rise of Colin Kaepernick
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” - Colin Kaepernick
On September 1, 2016, at a National Football League game, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the national anthem. His kneeling was a gesture to protest racial inequality and police brutality towards African Americans in America. During the summer of 2016, as black men were being killed at the hand of the police, Kaepernick’s social media posts exploded. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick to explain why he did not stand during the national anthem. “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.”Despite the backlash from the public, the NFL and prominent political figures, Colin Kaepernick has shown heroic effort and sacrifice for starting what is now known as the “Take-a-Knee movement.” Using his job as a professional athlete to call attention to social injustice, Kaepernick was willing to risk his relationship with the NFL, as well as his job as a quarterback, for the benefit of society. This has had a serious impact on Kaepernick’s career. Since the end of the 2016-2017 NFL season, Kaepernick remains unemployed. However, to him, standing up for an equal society is more important than football, regardless of the consequences. It takes brave people like Kaepernick making sacrifices and challenging inequality, to make important changes in the world.Across America, there were many opposing opinions regarding Kaepernick’s decision to kneel. Some Americans believed the protest was disrespectful, unpatriotic and a rejection of one of the most important symbols of American patriotism, the national anthem. Many felt that refusing to stand was insulting to men and women who have served in the U.S. military. Donald Trump, a presidential candidate at the time, commented on Kaepernick: “Maybe he should find a country that works better for him.” In an editorial, all pro safety Eric Reid, the first NFL player to kneel alongside Kaepernick, said he was surprised by the negative reactions. “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half mast to mark a tragedy”.Many other Americans understood the motive and were inspired by the “Take-a-Knee” stand. This movement sparked a wave of similar protests with athletes across many different sports joining in. Activists and other notable people applauded Kaepernick’s courage and commitment. American comedian, Ellen DeGeneres, tweeted, “As a football fan, I am proud of the NFL players today. Nothing is more American than the right to peacefully protest.” In a C&C survey about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, Eileen Fitzgerald, the middle and upper school psychologist said, “I believe that Colin Kaepernick and other players are exercising their First Amendment rights and should be allowed to do so.”In response to the Take-a-Knee movement, the NFL tried to discourage players from taking a political stand during game time. In May of 2018, the NFL created a policy insisting players on the field stand during the anthem or be banned from playing. While it is understandable why the NFL may not have wanted protests to distract from the game, requiring players to stand during the anthem seems unfair and unethical. If players were disrupting games with violent or chaotic behavior the NFL would be justified in demanding them to stop or face a penalty. But punishing Americans for peacefully exercising their right to free speech is against American values and could even be considered unconstitutional. Telling players how they must show respect for their country seems out of place in a country that is proud of its freedom. Fortunately, after a lot of controversy and resistance from many of the players, the NFL changed its position two months later, and no longer requires players to stand for the anthem.After the NFL controversy, Kaepernick realized he might lose his job and opted out of his contract after the 2016 football season. More than two years later, Kaepernick remains unemployed by the NFL. During the 2017 football season, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing numerous team owners of conspiring not to sign him for expressing his political views. It still remains unclear whether or not an NFL team will sign Kaepernick in the future, but the grievance is moving forward to a hearing later this year. A lot is at stake in the outcome of Colin Kaepernick’s fate, again raising the question of whether the NFL has the right to penalize Kaepernick for his political stance. Eric Reid, who also remained jobless after getting involved in the Take-a-Knee movement, filed a collusion grievance against the NFL as well. After being in free agency for six months, Reid was finally signed by the Carolina Panthers on September 27, 2018. Recently Kaepernick has been back in the spotlight with Nike’s 30th anniversary advertisement which features a close-up of Kaepernick’s face and the quote: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” By backing Kaepernick and potentially angering the NFL, Nike made a bold decision to keep Kaepernick's’ message front and center. If the NFL does let Kaepernick back into the league, they would also be sending a necessary and important message to the country that standing up for what you believe in is not only our right as citizens, but it is as American as football.
Sources: https://newsela.com/read/nike-kaepernick-just-do- it/id/45826/https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/sports/colin-kaepernick-nfl-protests.htmlhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Kaepernickhttps://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/09/27/eric-reid-colin-kaepernick-decided-take-knee