Monday, three Philadelphia Eagles players raised their fists during the national anthem, the latest to join Colin Kaepernick in protesting police brutality and injustice against black people in this country during the singing of the national anthem.
By Tuesday morning, another man had been shot with his hands in the air; another name added to the growing list of hashtags — 67 this month, a total of 193 this year. Of those, 25% have been black. And Kaepernick’s critics are chillingly silent on the issue that led to the protest that started one month ago.
More people are angry with Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee in silent civil disobedience than they are the state-sanctioned violence in the form of police murders of civilians without any accountability, structural racism, generational poverty, gender inequities, patriarchy and white male privilege that lead to the conditions facing black people in this country.
The age of the activist-athlete had all but died until the Black Lives Matter movement began to trickle into the sporting community. It was Derrick Rose, then of the Chicago Bulls, who was the first to sport the “I can’t Breathe” t-shirt in honor of the murder of Eric Garner who was choked by an NYPD officer.
Like Jackie Robinson before him, “CK7” as I like to call him, also had issues saluting the flag and standing for the national anthem under the current climate of state sanctioned racism, state sanctioned violence against Black bodies, of a viable Trump candidacy, the ever-widening polarization of our country around race, police brutality coupled with the lack of police accountability, and the perpetuation of a violent cycle of poverty that so many people of color deal with in being systematically marginalized within their communities while living in America.
Black Americans, it seems, are not experiencing the American dream. Kaepernick caught our attention with when he declared, “There are bodies in the street. 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.”
But not everyone has been supportive. Even other black athletes, including Rodney Harrison, Shaquille O’Neal and Ray Lewis have questioned the authenticity and methodology of Kaepernick’s protest. Some have felt that he only did it because he knew he was going to lose his job; which he did to Blaine Gabbert who is statistically the worst QB among this year’s 32 starting QBs. He has a current 86.2 passer rating.
And Washington Spirit owner Bill Lynch recently decided to move the national anthem up a few minutes before a playoff matchup against Megan Rapinoe’s Seattle Reign to prevent her from kneeling during the anthem in his stadium. Lynch released a scathing tirade, saying he would not allow Rapinoe to “hijack” the moment, and possibly offend veterans and families of veterans who would be present at the match. Lynch is also a veteran.
Some, like ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, are in flat-out denial. On a recent episode of his radio show, Finebaum said “This country has issues. But this country is not oppressing Black people.” He later apologized for his statement by saying “I could spend the rest of my life trying to talk my way out of it. But I can’t. I blew it.”
But Fineman’s statement serves as an example of how disconnected many Americans are and he also represents every American (regardless of color) that has had, continues to have and prefers to have their head buried in the sand when it comes to the reality of race relations in America.
Even still, Kaepernick is winning this one. His protest has forced the nation to have the conversation about race and athletics in America, just a few months after Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul used the ESPYs as a platform to launch the re-emergence of the activist-athlete. The conversations have elicited many emotions, from many different people and for a wide range of reasons.
Countless veterans, have spoken out in support of Kaepernick’s right to protest. His jersey is now the number one-selling NFL jersey, according to Forbes magazine. 49ers owner Jed York made the smart move and waited for the dust to clear before he spoke out against the protest as some thought he would do. As a smart business man he recognized who was winning and he hedged his bets properly.