The maelstrom of maliciousness that engulfs San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has only just begun. He’s protesting the treatment of Blacks and people of color in America by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. In explaining his actions, he used the phrase “oppression”, which is key.
He could have said “civil rights” or “human rights”, but that would have been sugarcoating the issue significantly. By using the term “oppression”, Kaepernick pushed all his chips to the center of the table. Oppression alludes to a systematic and ongoing societal philosophy that purposefully marginalizes a particular group of people, and not simply as a unfortunate side effect of capitalism and democracy.
It was expected that racist trolls would come out in a tsunami wave on social media, and that sports news outlets would reach out to some of Kaep’s former teammates with opposing views. It was also expected that there would be a great number of sports commentators postulating upon the merits of what is, and is not American.
Amid all of the talking, what has been consistently lost is Kaepernick’s right to do what he has done.
Major shout out to those military veterans who have vocalized Kaepernick’s right to protest in the manner that he did, even when they disagreed with his position.
Two weeks ago, there was a great deal of consternation among Black intellectuals and journalists regarding Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton’s statement in during an interview with GQ magazine in which he appeared to discount the impact that racism continues to play in American society.
I dont want this to be about race, because its not. Its not. Like, were beyond that. As a nation,” said Newton when asked of the criticisms visited upon him following his “Black quarterback” statement prior to the Super Bowl.
But just because he didn’t “want” things to be about race doesn’t mean they weren’t. Unlike Newton, Kaepernick has decided to take the bull by the horns in order to bring light to the issues of police brutality and institutional racism as they pertain to the American experiment, and there’s nothing more American than the right to free speech.
After all, it is the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, as Ice-T once said on the song ‘Freedom of Speech,’ “Freedom of speech, just watch what you say.”
Indeed, there is freedom of speech but not freedom from the consequences of free speech. There will be repercussions. Though Colin Kaepernick has been struggling on the field for about two years, the fact that he embarked upon this venture while his career as a starter is in jeopardy says a great deal about his conscientiousness and sensibilities. For that he should be commended.
Black bodies are lying in the street, people are getting away with murder, but people are burning Kaepernick jerseys? It’s their right to do so, but respect Kaep’s rights as well.