By inspiring people to speak out against racial injustice.
Once a quarterback who got as far as playing in the Super Bowl, now a great face of activism.
On August 26th, 2016, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the San Francisco’s preseason home game against the Green Bay Packers. This wasn’t the first time he did this, but it was the first time his action was noticed by reporters.
”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 tells NFL Media after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
I have to say I completely agree with Kaepernick, but I don’t think many people realize where the idea for the knee came from. On August 30th, 2016, Kaepernick met with former Seahawk and veteran Nate Boyer to discuss changing his method of protest from sitting to kneeling.
“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer tells HBO. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”
It is on September 1st 2016 that Kaepernick kneels for the first time, rather than sitting. It was encouraged by a veteran, so to me it never made any sense that people were saying its disrespectful to the military. And for the first time he is joined by someone else, San Francisco safety Eric Reid. That same day he also pledged to donate $1 million of his salary to the organizations that he believes will help his cause.
“The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men and women of the military, and that’s not the case at all,” he says. “I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country, and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee. So I have the utmost respect for them. The message is we have a lot of issues in this country that we need to deal with. We have a lot of people that are oppressed. We have a lot of people that aren’t treated equal, given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed. There are a lot of issues that need to be talked about, to be brought to life, and we need to fix those.”
Then, on September 3rd, Kaepernick is benched. And his career in the NFL seems to go down hill from there. But in the following weeks, President Obama verbalizes his support for Kaepernick and many other players start kneeling as well. Though, people like Donald Trump claim players and people kneeling during the national anthem should leave the country.
Kaepernick responds to Trump with this:
“He always says make America great again,” Kaepernick says of the presidential candidate. “Well America has never been great for people of color. That’s something that needs to be addressed. Let’s make America great for the first time.”
Eventually, Kaepernick opts out of his contract with the 49ers and no team is interested in him because of his protesting. As time goes on, eventually the NFL releases a statement in 2018 that says players will not be disciplined for protesting during the national anthem.
Kaepernick tried to return the NFL, but was denied again and again because he stood up for what he believed in.
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his entire career because he knew using his platform to take a stand against racial injustice was more important. But he didn’t have to do that. He could have kept playing, kept his mouth shut, and pocketed millions and millions of dollars.
But that’s not the type of man he is. He did the right thing. And sometimes doing the right thing means huge sacrifice.
Eventually, Roger Goodell did offer a statement where he admits that the NFL was wrong in how they handled this.
“We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Colin Kaepernick gave voice to Black America in the fight against social injustice. He gave people courage to stand up against injustice. He changed the world through his actions. He and many others are still fighting this battle today. It is past time for change.
“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody.” — Colin Kaepernick
This article was originally published in Equality Includes You. You can find it here.