Opinion: An undervalued aspect about Kaepernick's refusal to stand

By Collin Haahr | September 6, 2016 7:36pm

When discussing the different views on San Francisco 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit for the national anthem, people have overlooked an important piece: his ability to set an example for others.

Though his stand for sitting has created many arguments over the respect of our troops, his constitutional rights, and alternative decisions he could have made, I haven’t seen many opinions examining the impact his decision has made on the youth fan base of the NFL. I would like to personally attest to his potential impact.

I believe if someone asked a friend of mine, “What is the thing Collin Haahr is most knowledgeable about?,” it would have to be sports. I have been nerding out over baseball analytics and the importance of ball movement in basketball since before it was cool.

When people ask me why I'm so passionate about sports, I usually give them an answer detailing my love of competition and the beauty and drama a single game can create. Though this is true, I would like to admit I have been holding back possibly the most important part: the impact it made on me in my youth.

In 2007, I had just moved back to Portland from Gresham, and had issues making friends. Everyone I met at school was cold, and reluctant to come to my house and play games on my PlayStation. On top of this, my family life was hitting a very hard rough patch; with a father I saw only once every two weeks, and a stepfather who became dependent on alcohol after losing his job in the Great Recession, I lacked a true father figure in my life.

This changed when I picked up an Oregonian newspaper and read an article about my favorite athlete, Brandon Roy. The article detailed Roy’s work ethic, the love he had for the fans, and that when his friends and family ever drank, he’d only have a sip of wine. After reading the article my love and respect for “The Natural” grew vastly, and he became the first male role model in my life who did not like to drink.

The second time I was heavily impacted by an athlete was when I was 16, and saw former Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Desean Jackson on The View. He went on the show to speak out against bullying and to support a local Philadelphian teenager who had been bullied. This was crucial to my emotional development, because after a school year where I was thrown in trash cans, shoved against lockers, and ridiculed on a day-to-day basis, I truly believed I was worthless.

Since then, I’ve been accepted to a private university, I have a dream job working with a Division 1 basketball team, and I will soon graduate with a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication.

I truly believe that without Jackson’s decision to stand up for kids like myself, those three things would not have occurred. The sense of belief Jackson gave me in myself, as well as my close friends and family, showed me I was in fact worth something.

This is where Kaepernick’s decision to stand up for his beliefs becomes crucial to me, and more importantly, to the people he’s trying to stand up for; minorities who feel oppressed and discriminated against just for trying to live their lives.

There are too many African American children growing up in our country having talks with their parents about the unfair treatment they’ve seen from their own country’s law enforcement. Though I would never wish to speak for African American’s and their experiences, because there’s no way I could ever walk in their shoes, I truly believe Kaepernick’s decision to refuse societal norms and to stand up for what he believes in has an impact that can’t be underestimated.

As I’ve aged, my optimism for my country’s continuing effort to achieve racial peace has grown colder. Kaepernick’s decision has given me, and I believe millions of African Americans, hope. God Bless him.