When Colin Kaepernick took a knee in Week One of the National Football League’s season last fall, he might have never expected to start such an upheaval. Some call it chaos, others call it a plan for action. Whatever views people have, it’s spread from the NFL to other sports leagues, and now, the White House.
The story we all know is that Kaepernick was protesting the oppression he saw as perceived injustice and mistreatment of minorities. It arguably cost him his job, and President Donald Trump spun it away from opposing police brutality to dissing the flag and the military.
Kaepernick is not the first athlete to use his sport as a platform to voice his political or social view. Track star Jesse Owens did the same by simply winning a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Tommie Smith and John Carlos did it with their fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
The former 49er’s quarterback is the latest. But while some fans support him, others argue it should be done differently so it doesn’t involve the sport.
Now here we are, with countless players taking a knee, but the once noble cause appears to have become an almost violent catfight against Trump, who may be still a little bitter over an anti-trust suit he filed with the now-defunct United States Football League three decades ago.
Trump responded to the protests with the only way he knows how: aprofanity-filled tirade at a rally last Thursday in Alabama to the sound of thunderous applause.
The NFL’s response was solidarity. Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and New England Patriots, were just a few of the 32 teams that protested. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, who contributed significantly to the 45th president’s election campaign, was last Sunday locking arms and taking a knee before the playing of the U.S. national anthem.
What did Trump respond with?
“Fire them all or change your rules.”
Even the NBA is now involved. Point guard Stephen Curry from last year’s NBA champions Golden State Warriors, said he wouldn’t attend the traditional championship visit to the White House.
Trump then gleefully withdrew the invitation.
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James entered the fray by calling the president “u bum” on Twitter.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
We’ve also seen Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell and a Peewee football team in St. Louis, Mo., take a knee during The Star Spangled Banner.
San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward said he’s willing to protest as well along with Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds.
How and why did we get here?
The amount of money athletes are paid is astronomical. The NFL’s revenue sharing program ensures each team gets a cut of almost $230 million this season.
Yet, in lieu of these demonstrations, the NFL’s ratings are down 15 per cent from a year ago and it could continue.
Athletes have a profile to showcase and it’s important that they do. However, there could be several more positive ways do show solidarity with the oppressed and poor that takes us beyond taking a knee, by walking out into the community. On top of his social activism, Kaepernick is trying to do that by donating to numerous charities. According to his websites, he has donated to one of many charities such as Coalition of the Homeless, War on Children, and Justice League NYC. He pledged one million dollars to those various charities, and is nearing to his pledge.
This is a positive step towards rebuilding communities, influencing legislatures and integrating into neighbourhoods to begin the much needed bridge building that could span the American divide.
There can be only one Rosa Parks, only one Martin Luther King Jr. Kaepernick is, in part, homage to those who came before him by daring to peacefully sit at lunch counters, calmly drink from water fountains, quietly sit on a bus and walking together across a bridge that spanned Selma, Ala.; they are those who invested much more than taking a symbolic knee.
All this “chaos” could, and should, be the first step in that direction.