America to Black Athletes: Sit Down, Be Quiet.
By: Erica Jules
There is nothing more patriotic than a game of football. Gathering around the television with your friends and family, cracking a couple cold ones, and cheering as your favorite player gloriously rushes into the end zone is one of the most cherished American rituals. Even if you’re not a football fanatic, you cannot deny that football is woven into the American fabric. So when Colin Kaepernick took his infamous knee during a preseason game, America was quick to dismiss his demonstration. Colin Kaepernick’s kneel is a sign that America continues to neglect and turn a blind eye to the atrocities that African Americans endure.
In light of the many recent black deaths at the hand of police brutality, systematic oppression against blacks, and much racial tension, Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. "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 told NFL Media. "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." In an industry in which black athletes are afraid to take a stance on social issues to avoid parting with their lucrative endorsements, Colin Kaepernick is a breath of fresh air. He has never been silent on the issues of inequality and prejudice and has been a champion of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Unfortunately, being a black man in a sport dominated by white team owners has its consequences. Kaepernick has been unable to secure a spot on any NFL team as well as land any endorsements in the last year. It seems that any player who takes a stance for a social cause that seems to threaten the entitlement of their white fans and employers is criticized and punished. Kaepernick’s kneel is proof that we continue to live in a society controlled by the underlying racial ideologies of white supremacy.
Trump’s slogan is Make America Great Again, but when people of color speak out against the injustices they face in this country, Trump’s supporters insist it is already great. In a country that “idolizes” patriotism, Kaepernick’s kneel was one of the most patriotic acts that one could do. The first amendment protects a citizen’s right to protest and he did so in a peaceful and quiet manner. Racist and complacent white fans were outraged by his demonstration despite its manner. It seems as if there is no right way to protest the genocide that is being executed on the black community. There is no way in which people of color can correctly go about exclaiming our anger in a way that white people can soundly go to sleep at night. While Kaepernick cannot get work, our society continues to forgive and reward white players who do far worse.
It is no surprise that when we associate football with America, it refers to white America. Black players are idolized by everyone however they continue to sacrifice their bodies for their white team owners. Black athletes need to realize their power and collaborate, unify, and stand against adversity. It is a shame that our children glorify these players who do not take a stand in fear of being ostracized. Until black players begin to emancipate themselves from this new form of slavery, progress cannot be made. Kaepernick is a sign that athletes have a tremendous power and responsibility to take a stand for what matters.