By: Trent Rhone
“Shut up and play ball…” that is what so many of our Black athletes are encouraged to do by their white counterparts, when it comes to political or social activism.
This seems especially true of the NFL, as the fans adore our athletes on game days and the team owners respect and support their actions-if it is going to make the team money. Yet, few seem to genuinely care about the everyday issues Black athletes, and the people that look like them, face off the field.
Still, in recent years, Black athletes, such as LeBron James and Steph Curry, have made it a point to voice their political views and speak out of issues that affect the Black community. Yet, no athlete has been as polarizing as NFL star, Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, first sparked controversy back in 2016, when he refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem. Instead, he chose to take a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustices towards African Americans and other people of color.
Several public figures, including former president Barack Obama, rapper, J. Cole, and director, Spike Lee, supported Kaepernick’s use of his first amendment right and decision to stand for something.
Yet, others, particularly white conservatives, one being President Trump who referred to Kaepernick and his followers as S.O.Bs , maligned Kaepernick and pushed for swift punishments for those who “disrespect our country” by protesting.
However, the fact that Colin Kaepernick is no longer a signed player is not enough.
Earlier this week, the former San Francisco 49ners’ quarterback, released this advertisement for the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Once again, white Twitter exploded. Although the campaign included athletes, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Shaquem Griffin, and Odell Beckham Jr., the spotlight was directly on Kaepernick.
According to an article on Time, “Kaepernick’s ad created 43 million in buzz for Nike in less than 24 hours.”
While Williams and James, stood by Nike, opposers, including President Trump, openly criticized Nike and it’s decision to allow Kaepernick to represent their brand.
Others took it a step further by destroying their own Nike gear and vowing to boycott the brand.
In agreeance with one supporter, who tweeted “Imagine a country where a shoe ad is more controversial than a school shooting,” it is sad that this what people are choosing to fight against. This is especially true, considering the fact that the opposition has refused to even openly acknowledge or consider the reasoning behind Kaepernick’s protests.
In preference, they choose to focus on their perceived “disrespect to our great country,” which has never been great for the minority, and “disrespect to veterans,” who are often denied the medical, social, economic opportunities needed to live a decent lifestyle after war. Therefore, if Nike boycotters were really concerned about veterans, they would donate the gear instead of destroying it.
Therefore the argument against players protesting is most likely driven by sheer ignorance.
However, considering the fact that 70 and 75 percent of NFL and NBA players respectively are Black, there will not be a shortage of athletes willing to speak out. This is not the 1950s and not everyone will be willing to “shut up and play ball.”
Although, Kaepernick currently remains a free agent, there is still hope for those who look forward to his return. He is currently building a case against the NFL for colluding to keep him off the fields. In spite of the outcome, we commend Kaepernick for his heroic efforts and refusal to be silenced. He is truly an exemplar of one who “Believes in something… Even if it means sacrificing everything.”