August 26, 2016 sports and politics collided as it has so many times before in history. On that day Colin Kaepernick decided to start a peaceful protest that involved taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem before NFL games, to bring attention to the murder of unarmed black people and the lack of conviction that occurs once an officer murders an unarmed black person.
From there a firestorm erupted. His coaches, his team mates and his owner supported his right to peacefully protest. Fans, political pundits, and politicians weighed in with their anger and opposition of the protest. The excuse used to distract from Colin was the fact that he was unpatriotic and did not respect the flag or American troops.
Following the 2016 NFL season Colin decided to leave the struggling San Francisco 49ers, a team that was on their 3rd coach in his tenure as a QB and far removed from any chance of competing in the Super Bowl that Colin helped lead them to. Throughout the summer Colin was overlooked for NFL job after job. Retired, unemployed, and far less statistically comparable quarterbacks were selected for jobs that every football pundit has since said they did not deserve or were not qualified for.
Despite Colin not having a job and no longer currently being an active NFL player the President of the United States weighed in. At a rally on Friday, September 22, 2017 in Huntsville Alabama, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Many athletes, Americans and politicians subsequently weighed in which has become the norm when the President says outlandish things, a new weekly habit.
Though this is troubling, because the right to peaceful protest is protected by the constitution, it is also troubling that a sitting President would assert that a private entity should fire someone for actions he does not agree with. I want to put a period there and shift. This is not about Donald Trump or the controversy he loves to stir up. The focus should be on why kneeling during the National Anthem is important!
The focus on why turning off the NFL games is important. Though owners now “disagree” with President Trump, despite their million dollar campaign contributions, they have essentially fired Colin Kaepernick and have not spoken out in regards to the very reason Colin Kaepernick took a knee.
I have 4 types of people I want to speak to.
- To the black and brown people who continue to watch the NFL I personally get it. You grew up watching and loving football, you’ve purchased your season tickets and your respective team represents something “positive” in your hometown. Those are the legitimate claims I have heard from those still watching games. I am not begging you to protest or condemning you for not protesting, but I have two questions to ponder on that could reshape history should you choose to join in on blacking out the NFL. The two questions are:
- What if Rosa Parks decided to simply go about business as usual and to this day we were never allowed to sit in any section of a bus other than the back?
- What if the 600+ individuals who marched on Selma decided, that voting was not as important after all since they could face resistance?
- What are you willing to give up, to move the conversation forward and force solutions?
I ask those questions, because you could one day be the hashtag we mourn.
- To the white people, calm down I am not mad at white people, which oppose and reject Donald Trump if you really want to make a statement talk about black and brown people being disproportionately murdered by police officers without a trial and turn your tv off during NFL games, because the individual who sacrificed his job and career to call attention to the issue has been subjected to the treatment Donald Trump encouraged. The NFL losing millions of dollars each week sends a message that you stand with the black and brown people who you call friends, neighbors and coworkers.
- Lastly to the black and brown people who have turned your televisions off, sold your tickets and now refuse to support the NFL, keep it up, but do not verbally abuse and berate people who do not see things the way you do instead continue the peaceful demonstration.
- To the individuals who feel that Colin’s protest was disrespectful to the flag and our troops and/ or believe it should be left off of the field, I would ask you do you feel such outrage for Muhammad Ali who refused to enlist for the Vietnam War? What about former MLB player Shawn Green? What about Kathrine Switzer, did she protest discrimination in the right way? Did Branch Rickey make the right decision, by breaking precedent with American and baseball tradition in 1946? Or are you just uncomfortable talking about why Colin took a knee?