On Kap, Protests, and Athletes Speaking Out

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I understand that my voice is just one of many calling out, supporting, villifying or lauding Colin Kaerpernick for his recent stance about racial inequality in the United States. I also understand that, for many, nothing that is written will change opinions of Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. While I believe that the cause and the issue that Kaepernick stands (er, um sits?) for is a valid and important one, I wouldn’t choose to protest in the way he has.

But damn it. I respect that he has put himself out there and taken a stand. Right or wrong in his method, Kaepernick has risked much of his livelihood and capital with the public in an attempt to start a dialogue about something he believes is very important.

Kaepernick says, “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.”

Let’s be clear. For Kapernick to say nothing would be easier. He is not a player guaranteed to play for years in this league no matter what he does. He is deep in a battle to earn playing time, and indeed a roster spot. His statements and action on this issue may very well cost him that roster spot. It might very well cost him millions.

The responses to Kapernick’s actions have been varied. And disgusting.

While many write that they support Kaepernick’s right, as an American citizen, to protest in a way he feels will raise awareness, many have also immediately attacked him.

If you have a strong stomach, search Twitter. The backlash against Kaepernick in many cases comes from such a place of hatred, xenophobia and “us against them” that it, ironically, proves why he felt the necessity to speak out in the first place.

Take this tweet as an example:

It’s not the only one. There are hundreds. They speak to the abject hatred that many have under the surface for any American who addresses the issues facing minorities, the poor or the disadvantaged. We’ve simply become a country unable to have a civil discussion. We’ve gotten to the point where everything is black and white (no pun intended). The point where you must villify Kaepernick or completely endorse his actions. We can’t discuss the underlying issues because we’ve meme’ed them before we even get to that point.

What’s scarier is that social media platforms empower those who have no desire to address the issues, but just simply want to air their own hatred. Some see the vigorous opposition to Kaepernick’s stance and use it as a justification to post their own hatred, going far beyond criticism.

Kaepernick should not be above criticism. This is not because I believe he is full of hate or not an American, but because I believe it causes so much “noise” that the original protest and underlying issue is bound to be lost. Reaction becomes a referendum on Kaepernick and his patriotism instead of a discussion of the very real racial challenges this country faces. By sitting for the anthem, Kaepernick may drown out his own message.

Some have recognized that Kapernick’s act is exactly how our Constitution makes us different from other countries. Unfortunately, these voices seem to be lost in the shouting.

I’m not opposed to disagreement. We need that. I am opposed to those who immediately use events like this to justify their hate. It won’t take you long to see mentions of Kaepernick as bi-racial or his white parents if you search his name. You don’t have to look far to see him categorized as a Muslim who hates the United States. You won’t be able to count the number of tweets that come from a place of hatred.

It will take you a long time to find remarks that address the issue that Kaepernick is trying to raise in a respectful manner.

This is my issue. I am raising two girls in an atmosphere where our disagreements and issues cannot be calmly discussed. They are growing up in an environment where one’s citizenship and American-ness will be challenged if they agree that this country has problems. It’s a place in time where we cannot address our shortcomings because to do so is to invite ridicule and attacks from people on either extreme. There is no gray.

A very real discussion about race and inequality still needs to be had. We seem unable to have that conversation because the battle lines are so distinct. There is no middle ground. That makes me hurt more than seeing an individual choose not to stand for the National Anthem.

But Kaepernick has us talking. I just wish the discussions were more about issues and less about memes, condemnation and name calling.


  • Adam Hatlan

    Thank you for writing this. It’s tiring seeing all the hatred on social media platforms, and people hiding behind their keyboards to voice that hatred. It’s hard to speak on behalf of minorities. The majority continues to feed off of their own ignorant ideals. I’m one of the biggest opponents of Kap on the field, but I’m standing firm with him on this one.


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