Colin Kaepernick made a foolish decision when he refused to stand for the singing of the American National Anthem in three National Football League preseason games. Gabby Douglas, America’s hero from the London Olympics in 2012 and one of the Final Five of Márta Károlyi in the 2016 Rio Olympics, was lambasted by the American public when she failed to put her hand over her heart during the playing of the National anthem. She sent out a public apology, but was still criticized heavily for her actions throughout the 2016 Olympics despite her actions being unintentional. With a full Afro and knee high socks displaying pigs in police caps, Kaepernick sat for the national anthem again and followed up his questionable behavior with a clear explanation of why he did not stand to honor the flag instead of quickly apologizing for his errant actions. With his current standing in his organization, and his diminished stature on the field, publicly making such an unpopular statement could be the mistake of a lifetime. It could cost him his livelihood. But, that is why you should applaud him.
Colin Kaepernick saw the injustice of the systematic policing and killing of Black men by this great nation and figuratively took a stand by literally sitting down. He has a platform to speak out against inequality through his job playing professional football, and he used it to propagate a change.
This type of public gesture would never be made by Stephon Curry or Tom Brady because their sponsors are more important than their politics. And honestly, the companies backing them would leave in droves. Kaepernick’s sponsors have been steadily declining because his play on the football field has consistently worsened over the past two years. And, his critics would say that he had nothing to lose with his gesture because he has lost the faith of his supporters. However, one decent season would revitalize his floundering career and make him more marketable to sponsors than he has ever been. He is only three years removed from two Divisional playoff wins and one NFC championship, but is now fighting to keep a starting job with the team he led to a Super Bowl. Kaepernick’s play has shown the residual effects of a few nagging injuries. Though he has played slower, been less accurate, and without Harbaugh his former coach looked decidedly mediocre, Colin Kaepernick is one good season away from returning to the spotlight. And, that is exactly why Kaepernick’s message is impressive and important. He stands to lose everything, but took a stand anyway.
Athletes rarely look beyond themselves to plight of the common man. They essentially are not the common man; these professionals are superhuman celebrities that grow bigger, run faster, throw further, and make impossible athletic plays look mundane. The lowest paid professional athletes in football earn as much as doctors, so athletes do not live like the millions of fanatics that follow them through sporting events and social media. Kaepernick makes more than the average athlete so his sensibilities should be even further removed from the common man. He signed a 6 year, $114M contract extension two years ago, and is guaranteed $11.9M if he is cut this before the season. He could make another $8M if he finishes the season with the 49ers. But, the struggle of Black men and women in this country hit a personal note with Kaepernick, and instead of ignoring the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of those who are paid to protect them, he put his money on the line and spoke up for the oppressed. Former players like Rodney Harrison question his race. Sports commentators like Steven A. Smith question his integrity. But Kaepernick continues to take a stand by refusing to stand.
“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.”