By kneeling during the national anthem, pro-football quarterback Colin Kaepernick has managed to become one of the most respected, yet despised men in America. His iconic protest against the racism black people face in the United States, coupled with his generous donations to charity organizations have made him an unemployed villain of the patriotic people of America.
Story by Alexis Tatum
Four years ago, quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. He also led his team to the playoffs in the following year. In the past four years, despite the recent downward trend in his career, he’s had some pretty great stats—according to ESPN, Kaepernick took over as starting quarterback and averaged 8.32 yards per pass attempt in 2012. His stats put him among the top 50 NFL career leaders in yards per pass attempt. In short, he’s not a bad player—he shows great potential. But after terminating his contract with the 49ers in hopes of a better future, Kaepernick has failed to get any contract offers during this off season. Fans believe that there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Kaepernick is being blacklisted by conservative NFL contractors because he refused to stand for the national anthem.
Aside from his lack of employment, Kaepernick has been making headlines for his generous donations and efforts toward social change. Last October, the former 49ers quarterback initiated his “Know Your Rights” campaign with the goal of “raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment and how to interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.” The campaign is free to the public and fully funded by Kaepernick. He also made a promise to donate the first $1 million that he made during season to organizations that he believes can help promote social justice. He has followed up on that promise by donating $100,000 a month to various organizations. In order to combat the devastating famine in Somalia, which is a result of a record-breaking drought, Kaepernick donated $50,000 to Love Army For Somalia for food and water. He also managed to get Turkish Airlines to donate a 60-ton cargo plane to deliver the supplies. After it was revealed that President Trump’s proposed financial policies would cut funding to Meals on Wheels, Kaepernick made another huge donation of $50,000 to the home delivery meal program.
Despite following up his protest with action that would be highly respected and honored in any other context, Colin Kaepernick continues to receive plenty of criticism. For example, Sarah Palin tweeted a link to a post on her website that bashed Kaepernick for donating to Meals on Wheels. Palin believed that Kaepernick was donating to defy the President based on a rumor. The tweet, which said, “And he wonders why he can’t find a job…” has since been deleted, along with the original post on her website. In a campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, President Donald Trump took credit for Kaepernick’s lack of employment, saying “But, there was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”
Some have attempted to answer the question of why Kaepernick remains unemployed. Joe Thomas, the phenomenal left tackle for the Cleveland Browns, had this to say on why NFL teams aren’t signing Kaepernick:
In an article entitled, “Colin Kaepernick Sentenced to NFL Limbo for the Crime of Speaking His Mind,” Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman came up with three reasons for the lack of interest. Some NFL executives believe that he’s not good anymore, others are afraid of the backlash they’d receive for signing him and the overwhelming majority simply hate him. Most NFL contractors hate Colin Kaepernick for his national anthem protest, and are punishing him by not signing him, the article claims. It seems that contractors are blacklisting Kaepernick in order to restrain other players from taking similar stands.
The NFL’s alleged distaste for Kaepernick is extraordinary, especially when considering the fact that the NFL endorses a number of players despite their illegal and highly offensive conduct. For example, Ben Roethlisberger, the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was accused of sexual assault twice. Vikings star Adrian Peterson was indicted for physically abusing his child in 2014. Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis got into a dispute in 2000 after a Super Bowl party that resulted in the deaths of two people. Ray Rice was only suspended from the NFL after a video surfaced of hi abusing his wife. With the exception of Rice, each of these men were still able to maintain their football careers, but Colin Kaepernick may very well lose his job for taking a knee.
Kaepernick joins the ranks of athletes who have put their jobs on the line for the sake of activism. Olympic medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were suspended from the 1968 United States Olympic team for raising the black power fist during the award ceremony. More recently, football players from the University of Missouri joined a protest led by black students by refusing to play. If Kaepernick’s accusations hold any truth, we should be reminded of this: protest is defined as a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection to something and it is meant to be uncomfortable. Colin Kaepernick did in fact cause tension. More than that, he used his platform to initiate a conversation. It is obvious that America is a country that loves itself. Patriotism, however, proves to be problematic when a citizen is not able to openly and legally criticize the government without backlash. After all, “the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances” is one of the democratic ideals that makes us feel patriotic.
Colin Kaepernick has already announced that his kneeling protest will not continue next football season. The question remains as to whether he will even be wearing an NFL uniform at all.