Everyone seems to have an opinion on Colin Kaepernick’s pregame National Anthem protest. In the last week or so, other players inside and outside the NFL, including Megan Rapinoe and Denver Bronco’s Brandon Marshall and high school football players have been reported taking a knee during the Anthem. News Media has also rumored either some or all of Seattle Seahawks may be is planning some sort of protest at Sunday’s, September 11th game.
Yet when a player doesn’t receive their adieu to take a knee, they get pissed. Megan Rapinoe opined:
“To be honest I didn’t hear (the anthem) and I wasn’t exactly sure why it wasn’t played, but (expletive) unbelievable,” Rapinoe said. “Saddened by it. I think that it’s pretty clear what the message is that I’m trying to bring to light when I knelt in Chicago and what I’ve continued trying to talk about the last few days and what I intend to talk about and clearly with (Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s) actions, I think that that’s a necessary conversation.”
Kaepernick’s protest (for lack of a better word) started because he couldn’t show pride in a flag of a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To him, this is bigger than football and he couldn’t look the other way. The problem with all these protesters is that the message of hope gets lost and does little to foster proactive conversation about how people are treated. Instead, it’s about Kaepernick. It’s about Rapinoe. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Throughout the last several weeks, I’ve traveled between Chicago and Indianapolis. In neither city have I heard one person discuss either Black Lives Matter or police brutality. Kaepernick’s discussion has not produced enlightenment upon police brutality or even racism. No one in either city said, “Hey, let’s talk about racism and what we can do to help narrow the gap” or “Let’s talk about the plight of the disadvantaged in our neighborhood and how we help.” The only statement I overheard was from a wickedly honest seven-year old boy in O’Hare International Airport who wondered if Kaepernick slept with a chia pet.
If the mission was to create an open dialogue of race as sports fans guzzled beer and eating nachos while huddled around fifty-inch televisions as teams pounded the shit out each other, then Kaepernick needs to think of something else. If Rapinoe believes that supporting Kaepernick will create proactive race discussion as sports fans watch women play soccer, she’s woefully misinformed. There’s no honor in public policy or triumphal banishment of systematic hate at the 50 yard-line. Sunday afternoon is about the pigskin. It’s about legalized brutality.
Participating in a brutal sport while condemning societal brutality seems over played. Professional sports players like Kaepernick and Rapinoe make an eloquent pay-check. Each can protest and theoretically ride off into the sunset. They will move on quite comfortably.
The crux of the argument is that we (as a society) must do more than protest. There’s more to making a statement than simply taking a knee. Whether we’re against cancer, police brutality, child abuse, animal rights or the right to education. Regardless of the movement, protest is only effective if it’s a start, not an end. Each of us have to be active in the cause that calls our heart.
And that’s the difference. Where was Kaepernick’s protest three and a half years ago, when Trayvon Martin died? How about Michael Brown in 2014? For that matter, Eric Gardner was choked to death only a few miles from where the Giants practice. Philando Castile was killed just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, mere minutes from where the Minnesota Vikings play. I would love to see their expressed outrage for 12-year-old Tamir Rice or 7-year-old Aryana Jones and the scores of others who have died at the hands of police since 2012.
Would this conversation have been different during the years the self-absorbed Kaepernick was declared one of the best quarterbacks in history? Hard to say. But by dissing the American Flag, Kaepernich and Rapinoe have done little for the movement they claim to support. It becomes about them, not the cause.
A more powerful message would been Kaepernick saying, “I am retiring from football, donating my millions and will begin working side-by-side with those helping to change the dialogue of race.” Now that would be worthy of real conversation.
Then again, real change doesn’t take a knee.