It was a protest unfamiliar to national sports at the time. Broadcasted nationally with even more news coverage in the following months of 2016. It divided the country into 3 groups with sub groups splintering into different factions. Those who supported it outright, those who did not agree yet supported his 1st amendment right to do so, and those who outright condemned the action as un American.
As a Bay Area native I’ll say from the beginning I believed Alex Smith was more fit to run the 49er offense than the dynamic Colin Kaepernick was. And frankly, was upset when he beat out Alex for the starting position. And to my surprise, the organization switched starters from Colin to Blaine Gabbert in 2016.
In 2016, Colin took a kneel creating so much controversy, the sports world hadn’t reacted the same since Mahmoud Abdul-Raft’s in 1996 and before that, there was the famous fist protest by Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. These protests were met with major backlash and disrespect from most American citizens at the time. Now, most people view these actions as brave and important to the causes they stood for.
Kaepernick’s protest and following kneel will be remembered in history. There’s is already a Black Lives Matter exhibit in the Smithsonian that contains items from Kaepernick’s locker on display.
This season Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster. Speculation began as the first preseason games came to an end. There are two main schools of thought surrounding the issue; one stating that what he did was a media stunt and he doesn’t have the skill to be an NFL quarterback to begin with, and the second being he is blackballed by NFL owners for being an activist drawing too much attention off the field, distracting not only his teammates but the fans as well. Both sides have their fallacies and respective ignorances, because like any discussion about race relations in the U.S. this runs deeper than the surface issue.
The argument that Kaepernick isn’t capable of competing at the professional level is without foundation. On emerging onto a strong defensive 49er team with the receiving capability to reach the Super Bowl, in which he excelled. He passed for a whopping 302 yards and rushed for another 62 – a feat only accomplished before by legendary 49er quarterback Joe Montana. This came a game after defeating future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers where Kap led the 49ers to a 3 point victory with a passing TD and rushing for 96 yards. This was the second time the 49ers had run over the Packers that iconic 2013 season. Aaron Rodgers had some empathetic words on Kaepernick’s current position and the movement as a whole.
In an interview Rodgers said Kap’s protests had more sway on his job hunt than accredited by most media outlets. “I think he should be on a roster right now,” Rodgers said. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.” Rodgers won’t be kneeling during the anthem because the flag means something else to him. As it does to millions of unique Americans. He understood the point, “[Black Americans] have a battle for racial equality. That’s what they’re trying to get a conversation started around.” Rodgers, being a white American, has never experienced racial profiling, prejudice, or being stopped and searched for no reason. But after conversations with his teammates began to understand what that meant to an entire population, “I know it’s a real thing my black teammates have to deal with.”
Regardless of Kaepernick’s skill to be a quarterback his message has been twisted and distorted. His message was hijacked by angry fans the second his protest gained major coverage. The original statement from the 49er quarterback was: “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.”
The protest wasn’t about him or the personal oppression or prejudice he himself had experienced. He simply used the influence he had at the national stage to bring the issues to the homes of every American tuning in.
August 23rd of this year, hundreds took out to the streets to protest the NFL headquarters on Park Ave following Kaepernick’s continued unemployment. A statement by the President of the People’s Consortium Rev. Stephen A. Green claims, “It is clear the NFL’s intent to make an example out of Colin Kaepernick is rooted in white supremacy which dismisses the reality of the dehumanization of Black Bodies in America,”. The protests personifies the mistrust many people have had with the entire league in their unwillingness to even invite Kaepernick to a training camp to try out. He had suitors but all the offers simultaneously fell through. So “United We Stand” took to the streets to finally express their frustration in person.
The crowd was large in the streets and drew quite a bit of media attention.
If you pay close enough attention to the TV rhetoric. There are certain phrases that come up often when the conservative media covers large protests, for Black Lives Matter protests especially, that they describe them as riots or “highlight” the looting taking place. In an interview between The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, and conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren they discussed issues from the viewpoint of their spots on the spectrum. Kaepernick’s protest was brought up. Noah said “Here’s a black man in America who says, ‘I don’t know how to get a message across. If I march in the streets, people say I’m a thug. If I go out and I protest people say it’s a riot… What’s the right way for a black person to get attention in America?”. That’s a strong point for the nation to understand. This was the most powerful, peaceful way for Kaepernick to take a stand for what he believed in. And it was lost in the frenzy of disrespect that was fallaciously justified with the notion of defending the flag.
The 2017 season just started, and Kaepernick’s protest has spread league wide. It has taken a meaning and vision of its own. It’s mostly exercised by black players but there is a lot of support by their fellow white players as seen by the hands on the kneeling players shoulder. The recent events of Charlottesville and in clashes nationwide, prove that the country is at a crossroads and the public is demanding a decision . More and more players are kneeling down to protest the actions of not only the supremacist, but of the President’s lack of serious condemnation.
At this rate the NFL may implement a new stat, ‘GK’ (Games Knelt).