It is well-known that during the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, that 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did not stand up during the playing of the national anthem. By taking a stand by sitting down, Kaepernick has become a lightning rod, drawing support from those who agree with his stance and the ire of those who do not.
I have found the vitriol that has come Kaepernick’s unsurprising , yet saddening and enlightening. It seems that some in the public and media only get angry when athletes, particularly black ones, speak out on issues that are not approved of and by that I mean racial ones. I say this because no one bats an eye when the NBA does its “NBA Cares” thing,promotes their “Lean In” campaigns or when the NBA and the NFL does breast cancer awareness. The WNBA had no issue with their players wearing shirts for the victims of the Orlando shooting, yet was going to fine players for wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts; only a backlash of negative reaction led the league to rescind those fines.
Let an athlete speak out against domestic violence and they’ll be heralded as someone using their platform to bring awareness to an important issue. However, the rare instances when a black athlete has something to say about the way black people are treated in this country, suddenly people want them to pipe down and just focus on scoring touchdowns and hitting jump shots.
Since the news first broke of Kaepernick’s sit, people have lobbied insults, engaged in the burning of his jersey and spewed racial epithets which I shall not repeat here. I have heard some say that Kaepernick’s actions were a slight to the military personnel who have fought and died for our (alleged) freedoms, that he has disrespected both the flag and the nation. Other takes were that Kaepernick is a rich successful athlete, how oppressed can he be, surely his wealth and fame would protect him from such treatment. Ask James Blake how that worked for him. There were also quite a few ( including a national sports talk radio host who once said that blackface was not offensive to black people) who called him a hypocrite, because some how having success in a system disqualifies you from speaking out on inequalities in said system.
What I noticed, is that none of these detractors actually addressed what Colin Kaepernick was saying, rather they chose this “outrage” over his actions. It appears this “indignation” has been used a straw man to avoid discussing the real issue at hand. It seems this is a common tactic whenever black people are attempting to put the focus squarely on racial inequalities in this society. The fact that there are segments of the population who have reacted in the manner they have merely highlights not only what Kaepernick was addressing by sitting, but also there is still an underlying element of racism present in this country.