Pacific Weighs In On Kaepernick Controversy
It was August 26, shortly after the San Francisco 49ers’ third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers when a picture began making the rounds online. Captured in the shot from the stands behind the 49ers sideline was the whole of the team, standing at attention during the performance of the National Anthem. The whole of the team but one, that is. A few yards behind the line of 49ers was a player staying at his seat on the bench, a player with the number seven just visible on his back. Colin Kaepernick sat down, and the country’s ears perked up. Kaepernick, the former star quarterback of the team who has been relegated to a backup role in recent seasons, felt the heat almost immediately.
As the photo the made the rounds in the news the next day, outraged commentators voiced their displeasure and confusion at the demonstration which many believed was disrespectful to the military, and even the country as a whole. It was not until two days later, when Kaepernick spoke
to the media, that he made his intentions clear.
“People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, as far as giving freedom and justice and liberty to everybody,” Kaepernick said. “There is police brutality; people of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part, and they’re government officials. They’re put in place by the government. That’s something this country has to change.”
The protest came as a surprise to many NFL fans who have watched the quarterback over the years. Those who follow Kaepernick on social media, though, know that he has been making his feelings on police brutality known for over a year now. Kaepernick has posted his thoughts following high-profile police shootings on Instagram and Twitter multiple times.
Kaepernick has also ignited critics when he wore socks that depicted cartoon pigs wearing police hats during a 49ers training camp practice. Defenders of Kaapernick were quick to address the fact that the socks had been worn as early as 2010, and that Kaepernick identified the pig and police cap as rogue police officers and not the force as a whole.
Just last week, Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to charities that focus on racial issues. Kaepernick’s actions and comments have since sparked a national debate over the act of protest during the National Anthem. While Kaepernick insists that his protest is not
meant to disrespect the military, many people have voiced the opinion that the act does in fact disrespect the sacrifices of those who have served the country, despite his intentions. The event’s impact has proved to be substantial as debate continues across the United States.
Kaepernick, who recently modified his protest into taking a knee rather than sitting, has been joined by a small but increasing number of players around the league over the weeks. Following the game against Green Bay, 49ers safety Eric Reid also took a knee during the Anthem prior to a game against San Diego. That same day, Jeremy Lane of the Seattle decided to stay seated on the bench before the Seahawks’ game in Oakland. As the first week of the regular season began last week, Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos took a knee. The spreading protest became even more controversial on September 11, when four members of the Miami Dolphins stayed on a knee. Some teams, such as the Chiefs, decided to recognize Kaepernick’s cause by standing, but locking arms during the Anthem. Clearly, reactions have been varied and passionate on this emotional topic.
How far has Kaepernick’s influence gone? All across the country, high school players and coaches have joined the 49er in solidarity; schools like Woodrow Wilson in New Jersey or Watkins Mills High in Maryland. Whether it is important to note, a large number of pariticipating schools consist of majority black and minority students. Is the message of social injustice being received, or is this a part of the media bandwagon?
TwitterCounter polls show @kaepernick7, the account used by Kaepernick has increased almost 120,000 followers in the week’s after his first sit-in. NFL jersey sales report that Kaepernick is now selling more of his number than any other player. Videos have surfaced online of people stomping or burning his jersey in response to his actions. Has his decision to quietly protest during the National Anthem disrupted life for anyone or has it simply had a moment in the limelight to slowly lead back into obscurity? We thought to ask our Pacific community.
We asked students, faculty and staff alike for their thoughts on remarks that Kaepernick’s actions were disrespectful to military and disrespectful of America. Adam Green, ‘16 Bachelor’s in General Music says no.
“As a person of color, the country climate right now does not make me feel safe. I don’t agree with rhetoric calling Kaepernick un-American. If military volunteer to fight for freedom of speech, then not allowing Kaepernick the opportunity is logically the only un-American stance. If this isn’t what military are fighting for, then why are they being sent off to be killed?” Green continued, “ I strongly suggest people read American history, protests made and shaped America. It is part of what helped make our country. (Kaepernick) is allowed to wear pig socks, just as Trump is allowed to say what he wishes.” Veteran students Chris Walter, Jeff Atad, and Jermy Aguilar were asked about what they thought of Kaepernick’s protests. Chris Walter, ‘17 Sports Pedagogy, served in the Army from 1997 until 2013. Walter says, “ It takes two minutes to stand for the anthem.” Atad, ‘17 Majors in Sociology and English with minors in Ethnic Studies and Pre-Law, says, “If he truly wants to contribute, put his money where his mouth is. (Kaepernick) makes millions. He was raised in Turlock, he wasn’t oppressed. Also, stop living in the past. No one today sees the National Anthem as racist. If you want to protest, do it for the right reasons and not for fame. “ Atad served in the US Marine Corps and the Army from 1992 until 2011. Jeremy Aguilar, ‘17 Business major, says, “(Kaepernick) seems to want a reaction; he wanted controversy. Some vets don’t care about the protest, others do. I don’t care what he does, but it is upsetting that the message is very general. It has no definition of what it would take for him to stand. It’s not being communicated as well by media or by Kaepernick.”
When asked about his sacrifices to continue his position and kneel at games, Rahsaan Ellison, Assistant Director of OSSD says,” I think the debate is based on someone’s experiences, their vantage points. It is a freedom of speech. As long as you aren’t hurting someone, we should respect the freedom of expression. The movement is already growing, we see athletes losing endorsements, a considerable source of compensation. This isn’t about fame. I respect anyone who holds to his or her beliefs in the face of financial losses.” When asked about peaceful protests, Ellison compares this to the 1960’s lunch counter sit-in’s and bus boycotts. All three are peaceful means to facilitate change.
Christine Awambu, ‘20 Biology and Chemistry major, is a first-generation American. Her father moved to Texas from Nigeria in hopes of a higher education and better life for himself and his wife. While attending school, Awambu’s father says he saw racism and was treated badly. He overcame through his good academics and balanced out his social injustices. Awambu says, “ My dad still fears for the lives of black Americans. I thought racism was over, but you still see it in the workplace, schools, and judicial system. What Kaepernick asks is why hasn’t Congress passed laws, why haven’t police conducted better trainings, and why do police carry military grade weapons?”
Awambu further explains, “I am scared to ask about Black Lives Matters. There is a stigma, extremists. However, I would kneel. Growing up in public schools, we said the pledge of allegiance everyday. It doesn’t represent the America that should be. Even with a black President, we still see unjust political systems. We need to be more progressive as a country. If a cop says hi, I am still fearful.”
Kaepernick has set a precedence. No matter how you feel, his protest has sparked an important conversation.
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