Kaepernick Takes a Seat For Justice

Once you make it to the NFL, you’re bound to be on TV excessively throughout your career. These American football players have taken on a path in life that is under the spotlight and media’s eye every step of the way. Until recently, we rarely heard about an NFL player’s personal life unless it had something to do with murder or DUI charges. Politics in sports is widely discouraged by the teams, coaches, and even the athletes themselves, so it’s pretty out of the ordinary when an athlete speaks out publicly, or is in any way politically involved. Being political is pretty risky since it has a direct, and sometimes indirect, negative impact on an athlete’s career. This basically disregards and discourages the right of athletes to exercise their freedom of speech.

With the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, their prominent role of standing up against police brutality and hate crimes against people of color has caught the American public’s attention. Many people are joining this movement to raise awareness and act against injustices, but not enough. Known athletes like NBA players LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade, delivered a speech during the ESPY’s in July regarding the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. The news media covered the speech and replayed the videos for days afterwards, which brought to light the issue of police brutality and murders occurring on American soil.

Recently, an athlete also decided to use his fame to do what he thinks is right by exercising his freedom to protest. Kaepernick, NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, took a seat during the National Anthem before one of the first preseason NFL games against the Green Bay Packers in late August. This sparked a heated controversy among the media and fans. Both resentment and support bombarded Kaepernick throughout social media and the news. Many videos of his jersey being burned by angry fans went viral online. Some fans view his protest as a disrespectful act towards the country, though sales dramatically increased of his 49ers jersey thanks to those who support his action. Seeing this surge in profit, Kaepernick donated the money to communities suffering from racism and hate crimes. “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,” Kaepernick said in regard to losing endorsements and his reasoning behind his refusal to stand. He continues to kneel whenever the National Anthem is played and has encouraged numerous other NFL players to do the same. Brandon Marshall, linebacker for the Denver Broncos, joined Kaepernick by kneeling and has already lost two endorsements, but he also gained a new endorsement.

Before Kaepernick, former NBA player for the Denver Nuggets, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was absent during many National Anthems, until he sat down in 1996. He sat because of his religious beliefs and his view of the flag being a “symbol of oppression and tyranny” based on its history. After that moment, his career slowly ended just for exercising his freedom of speech and religion.

Kaepernick, Marshall, and several other athletes understand the risks and know the troubles of standing up for what is right, yet are steadfast to their beliefs and continue to defy the social norms by being revolutionary and patriotic Americans.