Head to Head: Colin Kaepernick

Jim Geerdes’s side of the battle around Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner

Jim Geerdes, Sports Editor

It is all over the news. It has never been done before. A professional football player showing freedom of expression? Absurd.

Colin Kaepernick has changed the game – or at least the pregame. His refusal to rise for the National Anthem against the discrimination of people of color, specifically black people, has sparked an outrage.

In the third week of the National Football League preseason, Colin Kaepernick decided to stand up, or sit down, against discrimination. Is freedom of expression wrong? Many are saying his act disrespects the military but the servicemen and women fight to maintain the freedoms that Kaepernick is exemplifying. His refusal is purely motivated by the discrimination in our country.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in a press release this August.

Most professional athletes have stood on the political sideline until recently. Inspired by the increasing number of hate crimes and Kaepernick’s bravery, many public figures are finally starting to stand up against racial discrimination. Professional basketball players Steph Curry, Lebron James, and Carmelo Anthony have all worn “Black Lives Matter” shirts during pregame warmups. The entire Seahawks football team,  following Kaepernick’s example, locked arms during the National Anthem to show unity against the oppression.

Kaepernick has distinguished himself by directly protesting the National Anthem. His act has started a new conversation. The millions of Americans who tune into the National Football League every weekend are seeing more than just football. They are seeing men stand up for what they believe in. They are standing up for what is right.  

I admire the men and women who have the courage to risk their lives overseas to protect the freedoms we have in the United States. Opposers of Kaepernick’s stance say he tarnishes what the military stands for and that he does not show pride in his country. People have the right to believe whatever they think, but Kaepernick is only exercising his freedom in order to spread awareness and protest the real racial discrimination happening at home.

Racial discrimination is very real in the United States. There is no argument there. If racism had been eradicated there would not be so many unarmed African Americans being shot by police officers. Names like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Walter Scott would all be unrecognizable. And it does not end there. Even the justice system is flawed. These racist acts are going unpunished because “unbiased” prosecutors are seeing police officers needlessly defend themselves against the unarmed. If racism was non-existent, there would not be so many police officers exonerated for these killings.

If the justice system acted in a fair and balanced way, Colin Kaepernick would not be kneeling during the anthem. But, sadly, time and time again the racist perpetrators receive no criminal sentence. Prosecutors routinely rule against the minority victim.

So many people are in denial of these racists actions because, quite frankly, we were all promised it was getting better. Slavery turned into Jim Crow laws. Then came “separate but equal,” followed by integration. Granted, each phase had their many hardships, they all led to better circumstances. Our generation was always told we would be better than the last, but sadly, that doesn’t ring true. Kaepernick sees the direction this country is heading and has made the decision to do something about it.

Professional figures are in the prime position to spread awareness of this discrimination. Social media has exploded as a result of Kaepernick’s protest. News outlets have followed his story since his first kneeling in August. Kaepernick is giving a voice to the voiceless. His $19 million a year contract hardly permits him to say he is oppressed, yet he still stands up for the people who are.

“This stand wasn’t for me. This stand wasn’t because I feel like I’m being put down in any kind of way,” Kaepernick said in a press conference on August 28th. “This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change.”

Kaepernick is taking a risk. As a diminishing player in a demanding league, he could easily be dropped from the 49ers organization. But with great risk comes great reward. Instead of going down in the history books as a slightly above average quarterback, he will be known as the man who changed football. By kneeling silently, Kaepernick is using his platform to create a conversation, to create something bigger than just football.