From the murders of numerous African-Americans unnecessarily at the hands of law enforcement to the joke a justice system that allows their murderers to remain free, change is long overdue in this country. During the 1950’s and 1960’s celebrities and athletes like Muhammed Ali and Harry Belafonte did not shy away from leadership roles and speaking out about social injustice. Many have said that they wish the celebrities and athletes of today would care less about what they may lose and more about what our country and world could gain from them taking a stand publicly.
Recently we’ve seen our celebs stand up more than we have in quite a while. Actor Jesse Williams has always been an advocate for change but his Humanitarian Award acceptance speech during the 2016 BET Awards had some Grey’s Anatomy fans calling for his removal from the popular series. Beyonce lost fans and the support of some police officers after her controversial performance of “Formation” while donning all black in honor of the Black Panther Party during the halftime show of Superbowl 50. Now NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is under fire for refusing to stand during the singing of the national anthem at last night’s preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers quarterback has not backed down from his stance and has shared exactly why he does not honor the American flag.
“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 in an exclusive interview after the game. “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.”
Kaepernick also made it clear that he knows what he stands to lose but feels that speaking out is more important.
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Who knows if Kaepernick will be affected by his decision in his career in anyway but the 49ers issued a statement and it doesn’t look like they will be taking any action against their quarterback.
“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
It doesn’t look like the NFL will be taking any action either. They are issued a statement.
“Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
Although what his decision to sit is not against the NFL rules or in violation of his contract, the backlash has not stopped. I’m sure Kaepernick was prepared to be met with resistance but I’m not sure anyone expected it to be from the same people who challenge celebs and athletes to speak out. Chief political correspondent for Slate Magazine, and a political analyst for CBS News, Jamelle Bouie said it best. He posted the message below via his Twitter account earlier today.
Two months ago: “We all should admire Muhammad Ali’s courageous stand for his beliefs.”
Today: “Colin Kaepernick is ungrateful!”
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) August 27, 2016
The problem is we live in such a fickle society that drifts to where the wind blows the strongest instead of thinking for themselves and drawing their own conclusions. Too many public figures say what they really feel then issue an apology when the negative responses start pouring in. Creating change is not normally a pleasant task. Kudos to Colin for not backing down.