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Colin Kaepernick’s Immobile Legs: Two Months Later

Colin+Kaepernick%E2%80%99s+Immobile+Legs%3A+Two+Months+Later

With the NFL regular season at its half-way point, it seems the biggest story of the year still has to do with a particular quarterback’s legs. Throughout the NFL season, the name Colin Kaepernick has been plastered across all news outlets, and over all of your angry older relatives’ news feeds on Facebook. As The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick is usually in the news for throwing a football to the opposing team too many times and utilizing his backside to keep the bench seat warm for other players during the game. But since one notable preseason incident almost exactly two months ago, Kaepernick has been in the news for an entirely different reason. During the playing of the national anthem before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on August 26, Kaepernick refused to stand.

“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 said in a post-game interview.

In the beginning, Kaepernick was alone in his protest. However, in the first week of the NFL season, several other players joined Kaepernick. His teammate safety Eric Reid, the Seahawks’ cornerback Jeremy Lane, and the Broncos’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall, all sat during the national anthem. The protests have also expanded beyond the NFL, with U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe taking a knee during the national anthem on September 4.

To me, the people who are still red with fury over this whole dilemma after all this time really need to calm down and maybe go outside. The first amendment of the United States’ Constitution gives every person freedom of speech, which means Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the NFL players can protest in whatever manner they please. Calling for these NFL players to get deported from the country for not standing is insane. I’m not exaggerating when I say people want to deport these NFL players, too. If I were to log in to Facebook right now, I bet I’ll see three of my relatives share memes saying that if Kaepernick doesn’t LOVE it he should LEAVE it, even this far after the original incident.

Furthermore, it seems like everyone is forgetting that standing for the national anthem has only been a thing in the NFL since 2009. Before then, it was never even broadcast on television. NFL players were just sitting in the locker room while the anthem played on outside. It was only when the Department of Defense decided to pay the NFL millions of dollars  to have patriotic ceremonies that NFL players started standing during the national anthem. So NFL players stand for the anthem before games for liberty, for justice, and for the millions of dollars that are being funneled their way. People seem to be making a big fuss about the players’ refusals to stand, ignorant of the irony that they themselves are sitting for a good 80 percent of the game.

 

However, this issue is about more than just people sitting and standing. These NFL players believe that the country oppresses black people and people of color, and they aren’t going to stand for it anymore (pun intended). And that’s where I start to disagree with Kaepernick.

Which country are these NFL players protesting? Was it the one where 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War to free black slaves? Is it the country that went through a civil rights movement to give more equal rights to African Americans? Is it the country with a black president? Is it the country where an African American like Colin Kaepernick can make millions of dollars by throwing a ball around and doing what he loves? If anything, the flag doesn’t represent people of color being oppressed, it instead celebrates the victories that America has made in advancing the rights of African Americans, like Kaepernick.

Are African Americans oppressed systematically in America? Let’s break down some things that are usually brought up in regards to systematic racism. First, many believe that the American criminal justice system is inherently racist. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, African Americans take up 36 percent of the prison population. Men also make up 93 percent of prison populations in America. Does that mean the prison systems are inherently sexist? No, it’s because men are committing the most crimes. The same is true for race in the prison system.

According to  FBI statistics in 2013, 52 percent of the people charged with murder and non-negligent manslaughter, 31 percent charged with rape, 56 percent charged with robbery, and 33 percent charged with aggravated assault were African American. This shows that African Americans that are arrested aren’t being arrested simply for walking down the street and being African American. The ones being arrested have committed vile crimes, and are being prosecuted for it, which is how the justice system in a democracy works.

Another fact often brought up is that African Americans receive harsher and longer sentences than whites for the same crime. This idea is a stretch, because there are a lot of variables that go into each case. For example, we don’t know about prior criminal offenses along with not knowing the details and circumstances of each crime. Also, in 1994, a Justice Department survey of felony cases in the country’s 75 largest urban areas found that there were lower felony prosecution rates for African Americans than for whites and found that African Americans were actually more likely to be found  found not guilty.

Kaepernick also has referred to the issue of police brutality against people of color. It does seem like every week there is a new case of an African American being a victim of police brutality. It is definitely a tragedy any time a person is killed on the streets and is denied their right to due process.

However, it is important to look at the facts of each case before jumping to the conclusion that cops everywhere are killing African Americans. If you automatically assume that every time an African American is killed by the police, the police officer is the bad guy, it does nothing but create a hateful rhetoric of police officers in the country. This rhetoric is very dangerous, as demonstrated by what happened in Dallas and in a lot of other cities across the country where police are being shot by civilians and being called “pigs” and “murderers.”

Are all police officers perfect? No, there are some who have made mistakes and committed unjustified acts of violence. Like in the recent shooting of Terrence Crutcher where Crutcher clearly had his hands up and was shot anyway. That cop was justly charged with manslaughter. However, in the majority of the cases, the police officer was afraid for his life in the situation. When a police officer is faced with a threat to their life, how are they supposed to protect themselves?

Kaepernick has the right to protest, there’s no doubt about it. Freedom of speech is one of the most important foundations of our country. I also have the freedom of speech to tell him where his fault lies. I think the root issue is that people need to take more individual responsibility. No one is forcing African Americans to commit crimes. Just like no one is forcing them to go to school and work hard to get a scholarship to play football like Colin Kaepernick did. So, Kaepernick can kneel, sit, or plank during the national anthem for all I care—he has that right. But if he wants the real change for the African American community he is hoping for, then claiming America is a systematically racist place is doing nothing but creating more divide in the country. More importantly, people need to take responsibility for their own lives to make a change, instead of claiming that the system is stacked against them.

 

Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of its writer. This piece does not reflect the views of The Greyhound.

 

Image from Flickr Creative Commons: Brook Ward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Colin Kaepernick’s Immobile Legs: Two Months Later