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Colin Kaepernick
Punished for his politics
Toyloy Brown III
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Colin Kaepernick is a seven-year pro NFL quarterback, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time NFC champion who was yards away from winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. Normally, a player of his caliber would have been picked up by another team right away. But Kaepernick has been a free agent since March.

At the start of the 2016 season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the playing of the national anthem. Then he started kneeling to be more explicit about protesting the recent killing of unarmed black people like Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner by police officers who went largely unpunished.

He explained his stance during an NFL Media session: “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.”

The 49ers organization did not directly comment on Kaepernick. They stated: “We recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

But is Kaepernick’s refusal to celebrate the anthem the reason he hasn’t been picked up? It might be: NFL owners tend to be conservative. All but one are white. I think Kaepernick hasn’t been picked up because NFL teams feel that he brings too much baggage.

Not Kneeling Alone

He certainly isn’t the only professional athlete who has used his platform to make political statements. For example, NBA players Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony made political statements during the 2016 ESPYs about the numerous deaths of young African-Americans. Also, NBA players including Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts raising awareness of Eric Garner’s death. (A police officer held Eric Garner in a chokehold that killed him. While he was suffocating, he kept repeating the words, pleading for his life, “I can’t breathe.”) For a few games, players from several WNBA teams wore shirts that said “non-compliant” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

What makes Kaepernick’s controversial protest during the national anthem different from these other political actions made by his peers is that he didn’t just do this once, he did it routinely. It also created a divide among fans as well as non-sports fans: Some people supported him while others viewed his action as disrespecting America and our military. They viewed it as unpatriotic.

“I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody,” he said in response.

Because Kaepernick’s protest gained major attention, other NFL players and athletes from different sports joined in protest by either kneeling, putting a fist in the air, lying down, or locking arms with their respective teammates during the national anthem. The 49ers’ Eric Reid, the Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane, Seattle Reign FC’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Oakland’s Castlemont High School football team, and others joined Kaepernick.

image by YC-Art Dept

Meanwhile back on March 2, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Kaepernick will stand for the national anthem during the 2017 season. Schefter reported that the football star felt he’d done enough to get his message across. He also did not want his actions to detract from his message.

The following day Kaepernick chose to decline his player option from the 49ers, hoping to land a better contract offer from another team.

Support Grows

Although his statistics went down from the previous season, the consensus is that Kaepernick is more than capable of starting for at least a few of the bottom-tier teams in the league. He could also be a backup quarterback for practically any team. But since the time he opted out he has yet to receive an official offer from any organization, although lesser players have gotten signed.

Star athletes to recently side with Kaepernick have been the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. In The Charlotte Observer, Curry said that Kaepernick “definitely should be in the NFL. If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s one not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.” Rodgers told ESPN, “He should be on a roster right now. I think because of his protests, he’s not.”

Of the many athletes that support Kaepernick, possibly his biggest advocate has been the Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett. He has stated that he does not “think there’s a football reason for why he hasn’t been signed.” In an interview with AJ+ he continued by saying, “I tend to think that he’s being blackballed because of his political stance.”

After Bennett made these remarks, on August 21 about a dozen Cleveland Browns players knelt in a circle during the national anthem with some players’ backs toward the field. One was Seth DeValve, who became the first white player in the league to take part in this protest. “We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are things in this country that still need to change,” said DeValve, according to Yahoo Sports.

Whether or not Kaepernick’s act of resistance has affected his ability to get signed is unclear. I hope it hasn’t, but when I see a team like the Indianapolis Colts play a backup quarterback that earned an atrocious 33.8 quarterback rating in the season opener, I can’t help but wonder.

I believe that Kaepernick’s actions amplified the voices of many Americans who are outraged by police brutality against black people. He also set an example that will encourage other athletes to speak out against injustice.

Interested in boycotting the NFL? Visit medium.com/@ShaunKing

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(NYC-2017-09-17)

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