Don’t praise Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh.
Instead, praise the kids, his players.
The brave Michigan football players – who protested during the national anthem Saturday at the Penn State-Michigan game in Ann Arbor – made Harbaugh see the light.
It wasn’t the other way around.
Remember Harbaugh wasn’t feeling Colin Kaepernick when he started this movement, kneeling during the anthem in protest of racial injustice in this country.
And remember Kaepernick was Harbaugh’s quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. That was Harbaugh’s guy when he was head coach there.
Still, Harbaugh made it clear. He was against it – showing a sign of disrespect to the flag by not honoring it.
Harbaugh changed his tune after some of his players made a stand, took sides with Kaepernick, not their coach.
No matter what he said or his personal convictions, Harbaugh knows he can’t stop his players from believing what they believe. Best of all, Harbaugh can’t stop them from protesting.
“I can tell you what I believe,” Harbaugh said to the media after the game. “But I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last four, five six weeks.
“And because I’m the football coach doesn’t mean I can dictate to people what they believe. I support our guys.”
The picture of these players – at least six of them, maybe a few more – is strong, defiant. This is bigger than just Kaepernick.
Kaeperick really has started a movement that is spreading. And if his fellow NFLers are afraid to join in, the college kids – and even some high schoolers – aren’t.
The scene at Michigan was more like the 1960s, not 2016 with a two-term, sitting black president in the White House.
“(There’s an) injustice here in this country and we have to take notice of it,” said Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, one of the players who raised his fist. “That’s really what it is. It’s nothing (of) disrespect toward the country or anything like that, but it is injustice.”
Harbaugh has no choice but to go along with his players, allow them to protest in peace. After all, it’s what this country is built on.
“I’m not going to worry about something that doesn’t keep somebody out of heaven,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that’s going to keep them out of heaven, speaking their minds. There’s freedom of expression.”
This move by college players shouldn’t be shocking.
It took a college football team to show us how things can get done when you unite for greater good.
Remember, the Missouri football team just last season.
(Missouri Protests, Photo Credit: USA Today)
Fed up with the calls for justice on campus by minority students under racial siege, the black players on the Mizzou football team simply stopped.
No practice. No team activities. No game.
There was only one way they would return to business as usual: the school president – who had basically ignored the concerns of black students – would have to resign or get fired.
When faced with a similar moment a few years back, the Los Angeles Clippers fanned, took the easy way out.
Faced with racist revelations of owner Donald Sterling, the Clippers simply turned their jerseys inside out. Easily, they could have boycotted all playoff games until Sterling was removed from ownership.
With far more to lose, Mizzou players showed courage.
Sadly, most people’s convictions can be bought with money. That’s why the pros haven’t joined in with Kaepernick with bigger numbers – yet. Players have power, if they use it correctly.
Without question, the Washington Redskins’ name controversy could be solved instantly.
All it would take is for all African American players on the team to stand together and demand it.
Yes, it’s that simple.
They can tell Washington owner Daniel Snyder that they won’t play again until the racist name is changed.
Many have made such sacrifices to get things changed. It normally takes brave people to speak out about the ills in a society in order for things to get better. Mizzou players are a prime example.
It’s shameful that players have largely remained silent through this controversy.
The Mizzou football team showed the way. Kaepernick has started a real movement that most thought was one man’s fight. More is coming. The NBA season is right around the corner. You can believe many will join in.
“This is something that’s not going away,” Harbaugh said.
Credit Harbaugh. He finally got it right on this issue.