Column: Kneeling in the NFL causes uproar

Column: Kneeling in the NFL causes uproar

By Garrett Baker, Livestream managing editor

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er’s starting quarterback, began sitting on August 20, 2016 for the national anthem which plays before every major sporting event in the United States. Since the initial protest, multiple athletes across a multitude of sports have either sat or kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick and his message. The action has brought hot debates and drawn lines between races and political parties but as for me, Kaepernick is using his first amendment rights successfully and effectively to spark change.

For those who believe Kaepernick began kneeling because of Trump, he did not. Kaepernick first kneeled when Barack Obama, the 44th President of the U.S., was still in office. While Trump’s comments have surely turned a larger audience to the situation, he was not what drove the former star to his knee.

For those who believe Kaepernick stance is against the military, there is no correlation. I understand the history behind the national anthem. It was written during a battle in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812 by Francis Scott Key, but the song describes a military effort, it is not a tribute to the military. You are allowed to protest America without protesting it’s military.

I also understand that national anthem is an American symbol, just as the military is, but that does not mean that they are one. I highly respect our veterans, they put their life on the line to protect our freedoms back at home and their bravery in no way should be tarnished or disregarded and Kaepernick agrees.

In an article written by Mark Sandritter of SB Nation, Kaepernick said, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening… That’s not right.”

In fact, Kaepernick actually adjusted his protest from sitting to kneeling after speaking with former Green Beret Nate Boyer, who also happened to have a career as a long snapper in the NFL, in an effort to show appreciation to the military and help distinguish the protest from the troops.

“We were talking to [Boyer] about how we can get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from the fighting for our country, but keep the focus on where the issues really are,” he said in the same article by Sandritter.

The real subject of this protest is the injustices that African Americans and other minorities have faced in the U.S. with a large part of that fight in protest of police brutality. Everyone in America saw the riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown in 2014 or the riots in Baltimore, Maryland after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, so the news is nothing new. In a Washington News Post study, so far in 2017 there have been 770 people killed by police in the U.S., 129 of these deaths occurred in California, the state in which Kaepernick played football and lives.

California’s police casualty total is overwhelmingly the largest with Texas coming in second with only 54. Out of the 129 deaths, 68 were African Americans or Hispanics, 39 were White and 22 were unknown or other. This statistic does not prove that all police officers are out to attack minorities, not at all, but it does show why Californians may feel differently than other states.

Deaths are also not all that plays into racism and not all deaths by a police officer are instances of police brutality, which is important to remember. Racism can be hurling slurs across a restaurant, denying a person a job because of their race or writing people off immediately because of stereotypes, it is not always as extreme as ending a life.

Listen, I love this country as much as the next person, but I do believe that Kaepernick has a point. Although racism is not rampant in America there are still underlying levels of it in areas around this country whether we like it or not. That does not mean that every white American is racist, that does not mean that every person of color is discriminated against, it simply means that racism still exists.

Those protesting in the NFL are trying to raise awareness to the fact that racism, no matter how limited, still exists in this country and by kneeling to raise awareness, they hope to show that we are united as one country and that we can hopefully move closer to the dream of one day eradicating prejudice.  

I commend Kaepernick for his willingness to risk his multi-million dollar career to enact change for what he believes in. He has taken all the criticism, hate and negative attention in stride to initiate a conversation about American society that I believe has been one in a number of people’s minds who remained silent because they did not have the platform or did not want to take the risk. However you feel about Colin Kaepernick or any other NFL player sitting or kneeling for that anthem, you must admit, they have you talking.