BY TRONE DOWD
It seems as though everybody and their mother has an opinion about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in the last month has decided to take a knee during one of America’s most sacred traditions, the reciting of the National Anthem.
The quarterback has repeatedly said that his protest is not about holding a grudge against America or having some sort of disdain toward the country, but instead using his platform to bring to light what so many black Americans have known for years: There are injustices in the system. He has the unique position of being on one of the most watched shows in the country. In fact, according to the Nielsen Company, which measures the viewership of television, the 2014 regular season saw 202.3 million unique viewers, which accounts for 80 percent of homes with televisions in the country.
Taking the stance that he has takes guts. He has received death threats from all over the country, from his colleagues in the league to fans. Even officers of the Santa Clara Police Officer’s Association have ironically threatened to outright refuse to offer protection for the 49ers quarterback at football games, enacting the same police behavior that Kaepernick is protesting in the first place.
Despite his critics though, his protest has undoubtedly been a success. President Obama shared his thoughts on the matter, noting both Kaepernick’s constitutional right to take his actions as well as perfectly encapsulating the ripple effect his actions have had.
“I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard,” the President said. “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And, if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.”
And he’s right. If Kaepernick’s lone actions were not being seen before, they certainly are being noted now as others have taken the mantle to send the message from elsewhere.
A total of 11 NFL players from the 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos have all joined in on the protest by either taking a knee or raising their fist during the anthem. In fact, Broncos quarterback Brandon Marshall lost a major sponsorship deal for his actions. 49ers owner Jed York has not only come out in support of Kaepernick’s protest, but has pledged $1 million towards organizations that work to end social injustice.
Orlando Magic player Victor Oladipo has gone on the record saying that he has “no question” as to whether or not NBA players will follow suit. Singer Chris Brown was seen sitting out the national anthem during a charity basketball game on Sunday. American soccer player Megan Rapinoe kneeled during her game to symbolize solidarity as a member of the LGBTQ community. Most recently, City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) stayed seated during the pledge of allegiance at city hall citing that he “loved his country” but wanted to see acknowledgement and change in how minority communities are treated in America.
In any major force of change, young people have always led the fight. Whether it was the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, the fight for equal education in the hispanic community seen in Mendez v.
Westminster in the 1950’s, Stonewall in the 1960’s or the Black Lives Matter movement today. In the wake of Kaepernick, high school athletes in Alabama, Massachusetts and New Jersey have gone viral sitting out the national anthem and pledge of allegiance. Even with threats of detention, suspension and even death threats from rabid local fans, these youngsters have persisted in protesting the race based injustices that so many Americans have refused to acknowledge.
Kaepernick’s actions have taken the exact effect that is needed today. A peaceful protest that is sweeping the nation in a manner that is crucial to this exact time in history. While we have yet to see the change in social justice that the black community would like to see, Kaepernick is making sure that we don’t back down from that fight.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly