Over the years, activism has surfaced in music, movies, television and sports which are all still popular today, but recently, athletes have been more prominent with their activist ways, following the footsteps of their predecessors.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick began an athletic protest last year by choosing to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, causing wild controversy in the media. Some see it as disrespectful for one to sit or kneel during the anthem, but in this case, it is respect for a race that is continuously, involuntarily and recklessly being killed by law enforcement. This protest revolves highly upon the fact that blacks in America are still marginalized and treated in a way that is one sided.
This is not the first time in history that an athlete has protested for the injustices of African Americans however. Some of the most famous examples include Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War and the black power salute by track stars, Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, as well as others supporting fallen angels to police brutality. Kaepernick has rejuvenated athletic protesting across the country heralding in a national movement that holds the treatment of blacks in contempt. He is capitalizing on the Black Lives Matter movement, pulling it into mainstream American culture and sparking thought about what is going on in the black community. He is using his professional status to heighten the situation at hand and, without his voice on the subject matter, this issue would still be overlooked and disregarded by the millions of other Americans who are unconcerned.
In an interview Kaepernick did with the Los Angeles news station KTLA5 about this protest, he says: “There’s a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country, people don’t like to address that, they don’t like to address what the root of this protest is, and people want to take everything back to the flag, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking racial discrimination, inequalities and injustices that are happening across the nation.”
Our late leaders would be standing right next to Kaepernick as a part of the athletic protest in plea for change.
Kaepernick’s actions has prompted athletes across the country to join in protesting systematic racism. One of many examples, Megan Rapinoe, a member of the LGBTQ community, who plays for the U.S. National soccer team and the Seattle Reign FC, began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Not because she can relate to the issues in the black community personally, but because she knows how it feels, as an LGQBT woman living in America, where her identity leaves her to endure oppression. Athletes are using this activism to support causes they believe in.
In the interview Kaepernick had with KTLA5, he explained why he did not stand. The main reason he began this protest stemmed from the numerous murders of black men in recent months. Kaepernick says: “I find it very hard that people don’t understand what’s going on. I think the message has been out there loud and clear for quite some time now… I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Kaepernick’s empathy for what is happening has persuaded him to take action that has allowed people across America to hear his opinion, see a different point of view and join in protest.
Kaepernick has received major backlash from opposing viewers and is in fact, now a free agent. However, his activism was not in vain as other athletes at a professional and high school level, celebrities and citizens #takeaknee in solidarity. It is important for POC and advocates to stand together and resist against social, systematic and political injustice.
Photos by Myk’a Walker