The dialectic of First Amendment Rights, the National Anthem and Social injustice in America continues to simmer in the headlines amid the digital buzz that is emanating from college football and the brand-new NFL season, which blazes brightly on the horizon just days away.
Protest, despite the opinion of many, is at the very heart of America, both in lore and in fact. From a cultural perspective, there are few in the story of Blacks in America that are held in as high esteem as the black activist-minded athlete.
Just weeks ago, the conversation surrounding Colin Kaepernick was about his deficiencies as a quarterback and whether he would be a San Francisco 49er at the start of the season. Today, thanks in large part to his protest to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice against minorities, his popularity is at an all-time high. Even higher than when he led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, and to within a play or two of returning to the big game the following year.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
During the preseason, Kaepernick's jersey went from the 20th seller on the team to No. 1, and is now among the most popular jerseys in the National Football League. While celebrity is indeed a side effect of his decision to take a stand, and the editorial backlash from many in the largely white male fraternity that is mainstream sports media, the primary reason for Colin's protest has been obscured significantly.
"When it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past," Obama said while in China as part of the G20 Economic Summit. "But I don’t doubt his sincerity. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about."
I'd be remiss in not mentioning the irony of the president making statements regarding human rights and free speech while in a country that tramples both free speech human rights. Still, even as a black man is now recognized as being one of the most successful presidents in the history of the United States, one cannot refute the racism within the third stanza of the Star Spangled Banner.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Ultimately, a conscientious national populous can see exactly what Francis Scott Key was getting at in this rarely recited verse and its continued contemporary legacy, witnessed in racist police practices, defunded schooling and increased prison funding. But those who don't want to see it cannot be forced or coerced into it.
On Sunday, U.S. women's soccer star Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the National Anthem. She told American Soccer Now that her decision to do so was directly influenced by Kaepernick.
“I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t,” she said. “We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.
With Kaepernick's timely protest against the Star Spangled Banner, and the increasing acceptance that activist groups such as Black Lives Matter are having in the mainstream zeitgeist, it is inevitable that celebrity and fame will be a side effect of fan support. The increased sales of Kaepernick's jersey will ultimately go to stuff the NFL's coffers.
Perhaps Colin's lesson is one in economics as well as activism. And that's a great thing. However, let it not be forgotten that millions of poor black and brown people are gobbled annually by a machine built by America's racist forefathers.
John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Summer Olympics, Muhammad Ali versus the Vietnam War, and now Kaep in the 2016 NFL season, represent high profile circumstances of Black athletes who were moved by their conscience.
Ali, Carlos and Smith suffered severe consequences, but Kaepernick's final fate is yet to be determined. He is currently listed as the backup quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers' depth chart behind Blaine Gabbert after missing much of the preseason, and after turning in a stellar first half against the Seattle Seahawks in the final game of the preseason.
Thus far, Colin has been joined in his protest by teammate Eric Reid, and Seattle Seahawks player Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem versus the Oakland Raiders.
The mainstream feigns being largely oblivious to the seemingly apparent, nefarious nature of their ancestors' voting habits and social tendencies. Because of that, there is no good place for a protest, but there are great ones.