In attempting to bring awareness to the issues he feels are plaguing the United States, Colin Kaepernick has inadvertently shed light on his nation’s hypocrisy.
The San Francisco 49ers quarter-back has come under heavy fire for choosing to sit for the US national anthem during the NFL’s preseason as a form of protest.
Kaepernick explained exactly what he’s protesting, saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.
“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
For both his actions and his words, the 28-year-old has been made into a villain against patriotism, when ironically the American way of life is exactly what he’s seeking to uphold.
Kaepernick isn’t attacking the military, as so many people have turned the conversation into. He’s attacking his nation’s blind eye to the compromising of the values the military fights for and protects – equality, justice and human rights.
Some of this Kaepernick criticism is over the top outrage. We so often criticize athletes for being scripted robots. He's open and honest.— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) August 31, 2016
It’s very clear those values are being challenged in modern-day America, as repeated acts of police violence have widened – or at the very least highlighted – the continued fissure between black and white society.
Many have not only accepted Kaepernick’s constitutional right to have an opinion, but have agreed with his message. Yet those same voices have questioned the manner in which he’s chosen to take a stand.
What those people fail to understand is protest, by nature, isn’t meant to be convenient. It’s meant to be uncomfortable and cause tension, otherwise it loses its effect.
As far as athletes go, what Kaepernick is doing is much more radical than the forms of social and political commentary we’re accustomed to seeing.
When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony delivered their speech at the ESPYs, it centred on coming together. Kaepernick’s message feels offensive because it avoids any feel-good narrative and centres on injustice.
Perhaps those missing Kaepernick’s point the most are the ones who’ve swarmed like piranhas to his use of the word ‘oppression’.
Never mind that Kaepernick stated his stand wasn’t for himself, but for those without a platform, but because he’s a millionaire athlete, he’s apparently not allowed to feel oppressed.
We’re basically telling our athletes that their success – which they’ve earned through no one’s hard work but their own – means they’re not qualified to speak on issues that affect the common man.
The truth is we’re a society that either doesn’t want athletes to speak up for what they believe in or only do so when it’s palatable.
The conversation over Kaepernick may focus more on his actions rather than his message, but the ugly reactions have unfortunately been just as revealing.
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