By: William De Bruce
Colin Kaepernick stood on one knee in solidarity. He was expressing his constitutional right, but he knew there would be backlash. Now other teams have followed his example — they kneel in protest of the injustices, oppressions, and inequalities against people of color. However, some fans have shown their dislike for the kneeling, and thousands huff and puff out “boos” from stadium seats at various NFL games across the country. Do critics even understand the kneelers’ side of the aisle? Can they honestly say that they’ve listened to their stance without bias? We need to set aside our own beliefs and understand Kaepernick and other NFL team members’ perspectives before passing judgement.
Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem at the pre-season games of the 2016-2017 NFL football season to protest injustices. In a post-game interview, Kaepernick explained the physical position of his knee during the National Anthem:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
Kaepernick’s actions are peaceful and have stirred conversations about race, oppression, and injustice towards people of color in America that are long overdue. In an opinion article published in the New York Times by Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate, Reid explains that he and Kaepernick had decided to kneel “after hours of careful consideration…rather than sit”. They “[chose] to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture.” Reid likens their protest to a “flag flown half-mast to mark a tragedy”.
The major opposing argument against Kaepernick is that his actions are unpatriotic — disrespectful to America, the American flag, American soldiers, and the American dream. On September 27, 2017 news website Reuters published an opinion poll reporting 72% of Americans said the kneeling was unpatriotic, and revealed 61% of Americans did not agree with Kaepernick’s decision to protest during the national anthem. Even Pro Football Hall of Famer and Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown criticized the football players who joined Kaepernick’s protest:
“I’m going to give you the real deal: I’m an American. I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and national anthem. I’m going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.”
Protesters most likely do not realize the careful deliberation and respectful considerations Kaepernick and Reid had before protesting. And no matter how we see it, or what our opinions are about the protest, the oppressions and inequalities are still there. It is on us to solve these issues, and it means that we’ve got to stand up and do something.
For those who refuse to listen to the opposing argument, how can we come to truly know the truth if we do not, at least, listen to a stance that differs from our own? Take the time to understand the opposing perspective and motives. Strong emotions can easily cause irrational or thoughtless behavior. In the words of Michael Jackson, “Take a look at yourself and [understand the opposing argument before formulating your opinion; only then can we reach a conclusion that provides a sufficient consensus on social issues and emotional turmoil] then make a change”.