Anthony Mahon / culture / September 2016

The Weird Reverse Race Baiting of Colin Kaepernick

NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has become a trending topic in the past couple weeks.

Kaepernick–best known for leading the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl 47–has been sitting out the National Anthem since the beginning of the preseason.

However, it was not until a few weeks in that that Kaepernick’s protest made national news. Unlike the first two times, Kaepernick was sitting in uniform which made him easily recognizable.

Since then, social media spin doctors have diagnosed Colin Kaepernick as anti-military, anti-American and anti-white despite his protest not showing sentiments of any of those.

In an interview with NFL reporter Steve Wyche, Kaepernick explained his refusal to stand for the National Anthem.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, it’s 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.”

A fair question to ask given Kaepernick’s explanation – and the vitriol of the reaction it’s received – is where in that quote does he express his disdain for white people or military veterans? The answer to that question has become increasingly complicated as the weeks – and drama – wear on.

In fact, many veterans have publicly shown their support for Kaepernick through the hashtag, #VeteransForKaepernick. Former Seattle Seahawk and military veteran Nate Boyer penned an open letter to Colin Kaepernick. Unlike many responses, Boyer was open-minded rather than hostile. As a result of Boyer’s approach, Kaepernick opted to take a knee with his teammates during the National Anthem rather than sit in isolation. When military members were being applauded, Kaepernick was one of the many who was standing and honoring. He explained that he has respect for veterans, as they have given him the freedom he has to take a knee during the National Anthem. 

“The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men-and-women of the military and that’s not the case at all. I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee so I have the utmost respect for them.”

Marcus Peters (NFL defensive back with the Kansas City Chiefs) took a different approach while still showing support. He locked his arms with his teammates but raised his right fist in solidarity with Kaepernick.

Well-known political commentator, Tomi Lahren took the typical hostile approach. Despite claiming to respect Colin Kaepernick’s first amendment rights, she undoes this respect by calling him a “whiny, indulgent attention-seeking crybaby”. Like Kaepernick, Tomi’s response is within her first amendment rights.

However, her credibility wanes when she uses Colin’s white adoptive parents as an argument against his reasons for protest. “Didn’t two white parents adopt you after yours weren’t willing to raise you?” Low blow, Tomi. Low blow. In addition, she attacks Kaepernick for protesting about oppression while earning $19 million per year and for not calling attention to the issue of race in the country during his previous years as a pro.

This is a prime example of the no-win situations that are presented in these scenarios where race, celebrity, and patriotism mix – measured debate usually goes out the window in favor of hyperbole and cant. If you’re poor and you speak up, you’re lazy and entitled. If you’re rich, you should take your money and stop whining. If you speak up often, you’re labeled a social justice warrior. If you wait to speak up, you’re constantly reminded about being late to the party.

Kaepernick’s not rioting in the streets. He’s not burning down communities. He’s not responding to social issues with fists and guns. He’s using his voice and his actions to build awareness and open the forum for discussion. His method of doing so may have people split but that’s where the discussion comes in.

Since the controversy, Colin Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million as well as the proceeds from his skyrocketing jersey sales to charity.

 

Colin Kaepernick has opened the forum for discussion. Some people have responded with support and but as Nate Boyer said, the best thing we can do is to “keep listening with an open mind.” Engaging in political and social protest is vital to our democracy – what muddies the waters is bringing up Kaepernick’s race and social standing as a means of undermining his message.

Since Kaepernick has brought this issue to light, the ramifications of his protest have continued to intensify. A recent poll by the firm E-Poll Marketing Research states that Kaepernick is the most disliked player in the NFL. Kaepernick has related that he’s received death threats as the story continues to develop.

When asked if he was concerned about the threats being acted upon, Kaepernick replied that if his detractors perpetrated a hate crime against him, “you’ve proven my point.”

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