NFL player Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers received nationwide backlash when he kneeled in protest during the National Anthem. He was immediately ridiculed by many who felt his method was disrespectful and inconsiderate to those who give their lives to protect this country. I can see how Kaepernick’s method of protest can seem unconventional. However, I found it interesting that people chose to solely focus on what was wrong with his method rather than the larger issues he was bringing up. Even most of the NFL teams were beyond angry with Colin’s actions. They completely turned their backs on him the second he spoke up about the injustices his fellow citizens are treated. This makes it seem as though everyone tolerates those who are obedient and keep their mouths quiet, but as soon as they talk about issues they face, they are dismissed.
Perhaps, his method of protest was not done in the “correct” manner but it felt as though people acted as if he burned the American flag. He simply seemed to not want to recognize a tradition for a country who has historically and currently marginalized people of color and those he racially identifies with. It also seemed as though he felt it was wrong of him to go about his career while there are hundreds of people of color killed by police officers and not receive the recognition and seriousness it deserves. If anything, it seems as though Colin Kaepernick’s action are admirable as he realized the insignificance of his position as an NFL quarterback while there are real injustices occurring in the world.
However, many people also argued that Colin Kaepernick should be thankful for all of the opportunities that America has given him and people of color. Though much of this talk seems extremely hypocritical and flat out false. It seems as though they forgot how America was “discovered.” It was instead stolen as we completed one of the largest genocides of any group of people; extermination of the Native American population. Additionally, perhaps slavery and the tiresome fight to end it was erased from their memory as they recounted all the opportunities America has for its African American citizens. It is easy to bolster how great America is when we forget the entities we have exploited in order to achieve all that we have. Those whose privilege shield them from the oppression and discrimination felt by minority groups have no right to bash a player who is only trying to improve the climate in America. Even critiques from fellow players who are apart of a minority group should not speak of race relations based solely on their personal experience. Perhaps they did bootstrap their way out of a rough neighborhood, but using one’s personal experience is not representative of the discrimination faced by thousands of others.
What was ultimately upsetting, is the amount of energy people put into attacking Kaepernick rather than expending that energy on tackling the larger issues he was trying to bring awareness to. People became so passionate and riled up when they felt his was disrespecting “their” country, but were unbothered by the alarming rate of black youth fallen victim to police brutality. In looking at this situation, it saddens me that we continuously push racial discrimination aside only to focus on irrelevant issues. Whether it appeared disrespectful, his intentions were positive. We need people come out of the denial of these issues in order for our country to move forward.