Column: I stand with Kaepernick and the NFL

By Jamison White | October 23, 2017 7:57pm

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Jamison White
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

August 26, 2016 was a day that changed NFL star quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s life forever. Kaepernick was the young, prominent captain of the San Francisco 49ers, a team that had an ample amount of recent success. Kaepernick had even led the team to a recent Super Bowl presence, in which it lost to the Baltimore Ravens.

But on August 26, Kaepernick began to sit and later to kneel during the national anthem, and it caught the attention of a nation. 

“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,” explained Kaepernick in a post-game interview, referencing recent instances of police brutality.

The injustice and clear targeting had gotten too much for Kaepernick, who decided that it was time to use his platform to speak to the masses. The message was heard loud and clear. Today the league and its players are picking up more and more on this protest of injustice.

The unfortunate thing is the fact that Kaepernick may have lost his opportunity to play professional football due to his kneel for justice. After his protest, and admittedly a drop in Kaepernick’s performance on the field, he was let go from the 49ers and not signed again by any other team.

The fact that Kaepernick did not get signed by another team after the 2016 season is in a sense unbelievable. Take away all protests and it's not even a question if Kaepernick would have been signed by an NFL team. 

However, the fact that he is being punished for his beliefs and peaceful protest of something that is a clear issue in our country is unacceptable, but sadly, in today's world, believable. 

Kaepernick threw for 70 touchdowns and only 30 interceptions since coming into the league in 2011. Not only did he reach Super Bowl XLVII in 2012, but he made the 49ers true contenders in the NFL for several years.

NFL talent sees how unfairly Kaepernick has been treated and has been vocal about their thoughts. One of the athletes to step forward was pro bowler quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton.

“He’s made the ultimate sacrifice (as a player) and I respect that wholeheartedly. I can’t let a moment go by without shedding light to that: A person that does have the talent to play, a person that should be in this league, but I feel as if he’s not getting his just due because of his views,” noted Newton last week in an interview with the Charlotte Observer.

Newton is not the only player to take notice of the issues. The rest of the league, especially in response to Donald Trump’s call to team presidents to fire any protesting players, has started to take a stand. Many teams have decided to link arms, take a knee or even stay in the locker room for the anthem.

Teams like Seattle have even started the “Seahawks Players Equality and Justice for All Action Fund.” This fund is helping to support education and leadership programs addressing equality and justice.

These players are using their platform as professional athletes to get out the message. Many people claim that this action is disrespectful to the flag and the troops who fight for the freedom of our citizens. In reflection of this statement, the counterargument becomes clear. Troops go across seas and every day show courage and bravery, but they do it for every single American. People of color in this country included.

The fight for freedom and equality is one that affects everyone, and people need to realize that not everyone in this country is treated fairly. §176 of the “Flag Code” clearly lays out rules that are repeatedly broken.

“(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown,” as stated in §176 of the “Flag Code.”

After all of this, one thing is clear: the protest is not going away anytime soon. The league and its members are showing an ever-growing amount of support that seems to just be getting traction. Look out for more acts of protest from prominent players in the NFL and throughout professional sports.

Contact sports reporter Jamison White at whitej20@up.edu.
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