Just a few seasons ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was ripping apart opposing defenses for the 2012 NFC champions. Now, critics are ripping him apart over his recent decisions to sit during the pre-game performance of the national anthem.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Kaepernick’s stance this NFL preseason has been a popular topic in NFL circles because critics don’t know what to make of it. Kaepernick’s protest stems from an 11-month investigation into a video of former South Carolina police officer Ben Fields, who was recorded slamming a Black high school girl to the ground before arresting her. When news broke a few weeks ago that Fields, a 34-year-old Caucasian and former body builder, wouldn’t be charged, Kaepernick took a stand by taking a knee. Since that time, Kaepernick has kneeled during the Star-Spangled Banner, and a handful of other NFL players have joined him. Police brutality against Blacks has always been an issue, but recently it’s taken on a whole new meaning. Should more NFL players join Kaepernick’s protest? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this important question.
Riley: I salute what Kaepernick is doing. Social issues are out of hand in America and several races are fed up with what’s going on. The national anthem has a very controversial history to it, and while I can agree with Kaepernick’s stance, it’s important for him to remember that there are children watching as well as several other countries. His sitting during the anthem paints a horrific picture for children watching at home. When I was in elementary school, the children would stand with their hands over their heart while the Star-Spangled Banner blared through the loud speakers in my class. I can only imagine the repercussions that would have followed had a kid in my class refused to cooperate. I don’t know how prevalent the playing of the national anthem still is in schools, but that’s something that Kaepernick and anybody else who wants to join him should consider the next time he kneels.
Green: If there’s a group of players that feel as though their country isn’t living up to its promise, why should they continue to support a chorus of words that are clearly being contradicted by the people who are in charge of protecting the country’s own citizens? I’m extremely satisfied that Kaepernick is using his social platform to do something different, and I think it’s time more players joined him. The NFL and football is the unofficial sport of America, so how powerful would it be if the country’s most celebrated athletes were taking a stand and demanding change?
Riley: You mean how disastrous would it be, Green? Having whole teams or groups of major players kneeling for the anthem spells trouble. Americans are battling with each other as well as other countries. Now isn’t the time to show the world how divided we are as a nation, but how unified we are as terrorism and potential war threaten our country. If Kaepernick really wants to protest, then he can start taking every penny he’s ever earned from the National Football League and donating it. He’s still cashing checks from his employer—whose name begins with “national”—but refuses to recognize the national anthem. Leaders can’t pick and choose their battles and it would be highly controversial if other players joined in.
Green: What’s going on in America isn’t “highly controversial,” Riley? Should Kaepernick and any other NFL player who wants to protest just sit quietly and let nature take its course? Donating money is fine and Kaepernick has told reporters he will be donating the first $1 million he makes this year to social groups. But donating money isn’t enough; voices need to be heard too. Besides, Kaepernick may lose endorsement deals because of his courageous stance, and there’s no greater sacrifice in America than when you take action that will hurt your money. Other star athletes should honor his sacrifice and join in with him. It’s time to take a stand and I personally hope Kaepernick becomes the first of many to use their athletic status to influence others.