While we don’t typically talk sports on Lovelyespirit.com, sports and social issues are colliding with increased frequency. The subject at hand currently is Colin Kaepernick, backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refusing to stand for the national anthem as his way of protesting the unjust treatment of minorities in the United States. While I initially had no strong feelings either way about what he was doing, my mind changed this past opening weekend of the 2016 football season.
I love football. If I could, I would sit and watch every game every weekend. So as I was watching “NFL Sunday Countdown” this past Sunday, I was highly disturbed by one of the commentator’s comments. Trent Dilfer, former NFL quarterback took a harsh stance against Kaepernick. He went on a brief tirade about Colin and while the entire statement is too long to quote, I will give some highlights. He did say that he has not experienced what Kaepernick and other black people have experienced, but he felt that Colin’s protests “disrupted the organization.” He basically said that Colin’s job is to “be quiet” and back up his quarterback. He states that he respects his passion, but he didn’t respect him putting his stance above the team. He did not feel like people should be tuning into NFL players on social issues. For his full monologue, YouTube it.
So here’s where I interject. The NFL is taking over as America’s game and millions of people tune in and worship these players as if they are God. After all, football is mainly played on Sunday, a day we should be worshipping the actual God, but I digress. The NFL is involved with social issues and the heads of each respective organization are expected to comply. For breast cancer month, players are asked to wear pink in their uniforms to honor those affected by breast cancer. There’s the NFL’s Play 60 program dedicated to reducing childhood obesity. These are all social issues. Players are expected to participate and sometimes make statements and appearances concerning these issues. So now that a player wants to exercise his right to protest, by simply kneeling when the national anthem is being played, Dilfer wants to insinuate, NFL players don’t need to get involved in social issues. I found it offensive.
NFL players, whether or not they should be, are seen as role models. They are celebrities and celebrities have often been using their celebrity status to speak to issues that are important to them. While we cannot really know Kaepernick’s true motive, as many people say he is just trying to get attention because he is not the starter any longer, he is exercising his constitutional right to protest and he is not disrupting anything in my opinion. The media is causing a disruption by judging him. He did what was in his heart, to take a stand for his people. While I still stand for the national anthem at football games, I almost want to sit down myself, and I just might one day, because I agree that black people are treated as second-class citizens in a country that we were forcefully brought to and that we were forced to helped build. Even Beyonce was making football headlines when she sang “Formation” at last season’s Super Bowl. People were mad at her for her strategic metaphors of racial injustice through her dancers’ Black Panther uniforms, which led people to watch her video which made reference to Hurricane Katrina and police brutality. Former mayor Rudy Giuliani even commented that she was making police officers “the enemy” with her performance. Once again, someone is using their celebrity status to make a comment on social issues and someone who has no clue what it’s like for black people is commenting and throwing flames on an already uncontrollable wildfire.
Getting back to the point, any time you have a voice, you have a right to use it. Since Kaepernick started this protest, various opinions have formed and people have reacted in a number of ways. Some people have chosen to burn Colin’s jersey on YouTube, which is crazy to me, because those uniforms can be costly. On the other hand, Kaepernick’s jersey is one of the highest selling jerseys currently. Maybe people are buying them to burn them. Who knows? But what is happening, is a national conversation about the treatment of black people in America. That’s the real issue and we have to have a conversation about it, or there will continue to be significant racial divide in this country. Other players are starting to unite with Colin. Some have knelt with him, others have thrown up their fist in the air at the end of the anthem to signify “Black Pride.” While the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell stated, “I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s doing,” President Obama stated that he was “exercising his constitutional right.” One person you would think would be on Kaepernick’s side is Cam Newton. I’m a Panthers Fan and I have enjoyed Newton since the Panthers drafted him as quarterback, but he danced all around whether or not he agreed with Colin when a reporter questioned him about it. Cam got a lot of heat for his touchdown dances and even felt like he was getting the criticism because he is a black quarterback. So even if he didn’t want to necessarily agree with Colin, he did not have to come up with some bogus statement about us all being the same color underneath our skin. To quote him, “What I can’t you know, fathom is, how does one-eighth of an inch, something so small, be the difference and such a big commodity in our whole lifetime……And that’s the thickness of our skin, one-eighth of an inch. Under that, we’re all the same color, and that’s the big picture.” That’s some bull! He wasn’t saying that when he was being criticized. After hearing that, I almost wanted to tear the Fathead likeness of him off my game-room wall, but I didn’t. After all, he’s still the leader of the franchise and I paid almost $100 for it.
I say all this to say, I stand (or maybe kneel) with Colin Kaepernick. I think he has a right to do what he is doing as it is sparking more conversation on the bigger debate at hand, which is how black people are sometimes unjustly treated in this country. I am upset with Trent Dilfer at his one-sided opinion of this matter and I think we need to talk about the real issue which is racial discrimination in this country.