Reflections on the Kaepernick controversy

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Ciara Watson
CONTRIBUTOR

For those of you who have no idea, or who has never heard of Colin Kaepernick prior to two week ago, don’t feel bad. I’m not a sports person either, in fact I had to Google why anyone would even care what this man does in the first place.

Kaepernick is a National Football League quarterback. In today’s sports world, players are athletes that are not known to be controversial regarding politics. In what seems as if many players are satisfied with just collecting a paycheck and going home, Kaepernick decided to take a stand on a social issue that he believes in. Kaepernick is fighting through the hate from his once loyal fans for taking a stance. He is pushing past the abstinence of the media with their many questions as if he doesn’t have a right to speak on what he feels isn’t right, and speaking for the many voiceless dead bodies that lay in the streets across America.

Kaepernick is a biracial American NFL player that decided to make a choice to speak on the injustices we all see every day. The timing of Kaepernick’s stance is often ques-tioned. But we need to ask ourselves should there ever be a time, or rather is there ever a good/bad time to speak up for the social injustices that the greatest populated minority group of people face in the freest country in the world?

The confusion of what Colin Kaepernick said about his protest may be lost in translation. While many so-called patriotic Americans question why, and even the way, Kaepernick decided to protest, others down right disrespect ed him as a person all together. By calling Kaepernick names such as the “n-word” or “terrorist,” the people who disrespect Kaepernick fail to realize that their name calling and social media harassment is the very reason he chose to protest to begin with. When Kaepernick decided to sit down during the singing of the National Anthem, he did so hoping to bring awareness and change to the many social injustices committed against African Americans and other people of color.

When asked why he chose to sit down, rather than stand, NFL.com reported that Kaepernick said:
“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.”

Any American who agrees or disagrees with Kaepernick’s statement would also have to notice that his feelings are both strong and powerful. People of all walks of life have many feelings themselves about Kaepernick and his status as a professional football player in the NFL. Instead of questioning or trying to understand what he is protesting and why, they question whether or not he himself is oppressed. They question his background all the way from his adoption at birth, to his college career and even his $100 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Some even question how “black” he is. Some question how “white” he is, all while ignoring the fact that just because a person may or may not have been oppressed doesn’t mean that they can’t stand for those who have.

History is full of people both white and black and all of the many colors that grace this earth that stand in the face of adversity. History is also full of people who have failed to show human compassion in the times when it is so important do so. Sports athletes are often considered faceless drones for their sporting teams, so when they decide to speak up for social change in their era it makes national news that history never lets them forget.

Kaepernick’s protest is gaining ground. Many people are starting to pay attention to how serious Kaepernick feels about his stance against the National Anthem. Not only the players and coaches of the NFL such as Eric Reed of the San Francisco 49ers and Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks are kneeling in protest . Support for Kaepernick goes beyond the NFL. Soccer World Cup winner Megan Ropinoe, and most recently students of the West Virginia Tech volleyball team all kneel in support of Kaepernick on his stance of protesting the National Anthem.

Student athletes here at home can take similar stances, but in order to do so it would take courage and understanding. Athletes at UNO, University of Nebraska-Lincoln or University of Nebraska at Kearney can make a difference if they believe in what they are protesting. If our athletes feel that Kaepernick’s protest has no ground, then nothing will be done. One would have to wonder though that if an article about minority enrollment being on the rise here at UNO would be so important as to send it out to emails all across campus if Kaepernick didn’t have any ground to stand on.

Some people say that to stand up for justice requires guts and strength. Others say that a person has to be willing to literally go to war against society while risking everything that they have. Kaepernick was willing to sacrifice his life as a football star to make the world understand his idea of what the National Anthem said which is ‘peace and justice for all.’

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