The Kaepernick Movement

September 20, 2016

By Rich Bodee

In an August preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem, a move that was both widely criticized and widely celebrated.

Kaepernick’s rationale was that he, “[is] not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” His comments stem from police violence and racism that can be felt throughout the nation. Yet, Kaepernick is doing something else as well.

Kapernick is simply answering the call of fellow athletes, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James, who partnered together to speak to the nation at ESPN’s annual Espy ceremony on July 13.

Anthony said, “The system is broken, the problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide is definitely not new.”

The speech continued with examples of police violence, which has shaken our nation this past year. The defining moment was the call to action; athletes are in a position to affect change due to their resources and their roles in their communities and American culture.

People all across America praised the speech and said things like, “the defining moment of the year.” Yet, when Kaepernick answered this call by sitting or kneeling during the national anthem, he was met with heated backlash.

There are two sides, those who oppose Kaepernick, and those who support him. On one side, you had the classic argument of, “We fought to protect the flag. How could you not stand for it?” On the other side, you have another classic argument, “We fought to protect your right of freedom of speech. Use it how you want.” Veterans and soldiers seemed to be divided on the issue. However, there was a Twitter hashtag of, “Veterans for Kaepernick.”

It didn’t take long before other football players on teams across the country began to support Kaepernick and follow his method by sitting or taking a knee during the anthem. It prompted news networks like Fox’s O’Reilly Report to comment on the situation.

As you may expect, Bill O’Reilly called it, “disrespectful to our entire system,” a comment that refuses to address certain issues about racial inequality and economic disparity.

Interestingly enough, that comment was not directed at Kaepernick, but rather at Brandon Marshall, the Denver Broncos linebacker who also knelt for the national anthem. In response to his actions, Marshall lost two of his sponsorships (Air Academy Federal Credit Union and CenturyLink) in just three days. 

But the Kaepernick Movement continued and reached another unlikely sport, women’s soccer, when the Seattle Reign’s and Team U.S.A. winger, Megan Rapinoe, chose to kneel for the national anthem before a match against the Washington Spirit. The “silent protest” continued as Rapinoe stated after the match that, “being gay, [she] knows what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all your liberties.”

Rapinoe tackled another cultural issue, while still practicing Kaepernick’s form of solidarity. With the attack in Orlando still in our minds and the wounds still fresh, Rapinoe bridged the gap. But the story continues because that’s not the only attack still in our minds.

Two Sunday’s ago marked the 15th anniversary of arguably our nation’s greatest tragedy, September 11. That day will forever live in infamy. It brought Americans from all walks of life closer together in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. 15 years later, we still haven’t forgotten the heroes in the NYFD, NYPD, and average citizens, like those on United Flight 93 that rerouted the plane by forcibly retaking the cockpit.

But 15 years later, on a Sunday during football season, the Kaepernick Movement continued. Fourteen players from different teams across the NFL knelt or in some way expressed their feelings in a variety of different actions.

Once again, people turned to social media to either voice their disgust or their support. For example, actress and model, Kate Upton, tweeted that the actions of those fourteen players were, “unacceptable, especially on 9/11.” Many people agreed, many did not.

Was it wrong for those players to kneel on September 11?

The answer is something each individual must decide for themselves. But consider this; does the foundation for the Kaepernick Movement hold water? That answer is not debatable and we see many examples of it every day.

In the coming weeks, I ask you to watch for two things.

One, watch and see how the initial thought process behind the Kapernick Movement changes. It will.

Second, the sentiment of what it means to be an American is going to be profoundly impacted in the coming days with the release of Oliver Stone’s movie, “Snowden”. I realize that these are two totally separate issues, but they are both inherently based on the political system, a system that many deem to be broken.

There is a trend here. Americans show support for our government. Then we are shown proof of corruption, violence, racial inequality, gender inequality, invasion of our privacy, and so forth until all these social and cultural issues are swallowed up in a sea of lies and distrust. This is the cycle we are trying to break.

So the next time you watch a football game and you see a player kneel down for a silent protest, think about the issues that plague America. This country is great, but like everything else, there is always room for improvement.