San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is becoming the most polarizing figure in sports, the number one jersey seller, and a social activist standing up for equality and human rights for blacks and people of color.
Did it seem so long ago? Colin Kaepernick’s multiple surgeries had him looking to be traded and out of San Francisco this offseason, from arm fatigue, trying to regain his playing weight, and losing the quarterback battle with Blaine Gabbert.
Kaepernick had become a forgotten man, a shell of himself on the field and popularity wise, but then out of nowhere a crazy thing happened—Kaepernick started an uproar in the country when he chose not to stand for the national anthem.
Colin Kaepernick stood up for what he felt was right and justified in the name of equality. Justice for blacks and for people of color who are being oppressed was the overall message that he was trying to send to the world in his words.
Kaepernick, under the Constitution, exercised his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, and the right to not salute the flag as a citizen of the United States of America.
Initially, Colin Kaepernick came under eminent scrutiny from around the country. Here’s a short recap of some of the backlash he’s received:
President and Republican candidate Donald Trump on Kaepernick, per Buzzfeed.
“Well I have followed [the Kaepernick story], and I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try, it won’t happen.”
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart.
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) August 29, 2016
This is exactly my point. Class act👍🏼 pic.twitter.com/BYdMqAXVAu
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) September 1, 2016
SuperBowl champion and x-NFL player Rodney Harrison on Kaepernick.
“I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black,” Harrison said oniHeartRadio (h/t Sporting News). “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single (day) basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.”
Harrison later stated, “I’m not saying he has to be black, but I’m saying, his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a black man, or people of color, that’s what I’m saying.”
That’s just a small sample size of what Kaepernick has had to endure with the backlash he’s received, as well as being called a disgruntled American.
There are those who are accusing him of converting over to the Islamic religion as well, something that Kaepernick would later set the record straight in his recent interview with reporters as seen in the video.
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) September 7, 2016
That’s the negative backlash. Now let’s turn to the positive and to the rise of Kaepernick’s popularity and being the most polarizing figure in sports right now in my opinion.
Veterans started a hashtag for Kaepernick.
— Nicole (@dcmbrdiva) August 31, 2016
— Isaac wright (@I_Zac33) August 31, 2016
NBA champion, social activist, writer, author, and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Kaepernick.
“What should horrify Americans is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”
NFL Hall of Famer, actor, social activist, and more Jim Brown supports Kaepernick 100 percent.
“I think Pandora’s Box is open. I’m very happy that it is. So many years, we had the great Michael Jordan who stated that Republicans buy sneakers, too. So, you know “I’m not gon’ rock this boat. I’m gon’ make this money.” And for a couple of generations, it was about making money, not messing with your image. And the agents became the pivotal figure for a lot of these guys. And the agents kept reminding them that you have to be this all-American boy to make these kind of dollars and these dollars are astronomical dollars. So the money came into the culture and created a couple of generations of individuals who did not want to speak up.”
President Barack Obama on Kaepernick.
“I think there are a lot of ways you can do it. As a general matter, when it comes to the flag and the national anthem, and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us, that is a tough thing for [veterans] to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are.
But I don’t doubt his sincerity, based on what I’ve heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And, if nothing else, what he’s done is he’s generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.
So, again, I haven’t been paying close attention to it, but you’ve heard me talk about in the past the need for us to have an active citizenry. Sometimes that’s messy and controversial, and it gets people angry and frustrated, but I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines and not paying attention at all.
My suspicion is that over time he’s going to refine how he’s thinking about it, and maybe some of his critics will start seeing that he has a point around certain concerns about justice and equality, and that’s how we move forward. Sometimes it’s messy, but that’s the way democracy works.”
Fellow teammate safety Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in the protest.
“It’s something that’s been on my mind all week and after talking to Colin many times, I talked to him today before the game,” Reid said. “People thought it was disrespectful for him to sit down. He was able to decide, ‘What if we took a knee instead of sitting?’
“And that came off as more respectful to the country, to the anthem, to the military. And I agree with that. It shows that he hears that people were hurt by him sitting, but he still believes in the cause that he wants to bring awareness to. So he changed his physical position from sitting down to take a knee to still show respect ”
The 49ers and head coach Chip Kelly issued a statement regarding Kaepernick.
“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”–49ers.
“Chip Kelly it’s “his right as a citizen” and said “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
Colin Kaepernick’s jersey soars to number one in sales, and he also pledges to donate a million dollars and all earnings from jersey sales to the communities that need help and support.
View this post on Instagram
I want to thank everyone who has shown me love and support, it truly means a lot! I wasn't expecting my jersey sales to jump to number one because of this, but it shows the people's belief that we can achieve justice and equality for ALL! The only way I can repay you for the support is to return the favor by donating all the proceeds I receive from my jersey sales back into the communities! I believe in the people, and WE can be the change!
Super Bowl champion, hall of fame tight end Shannon Sharp, and new co-host of the show Undisputed gave an emotional outlook and support for Colin Kaepernick.
Two-time NBA MVP and champion Steph Curry supports and commented on Kaepernick.
Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane is also in support of Colin Kaepernick and when asked why he sat, his response was, “I don’t mean no disrespect to anybody,’’ he said. “I’m just standing behind what I believe in.’’
“I just like what he’s doing, and I’m standing behind him,” Lane said after the Seahawks’ fourth preseason game. “It’s something I plan on keep on doing, until I feel like justice is being served.”
Jeremy Lane on Kaepernick: “He reached out to me and just told me thank you, standing behind me,” Lane said, according to ESPN.
Maybe hard to tell but that's Jeremy Lane sitting during anthem. pic.twitter.com/OHtO2D8T0T
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) September 2, 2016
Openly Gay U.S. Soccer Star Kneels During National Anthem, Praises Colin Kaepernick and ‘Everything He’s Standing For.’ Via theblaze.com.
“It was very intentional,” Rapinoe told American Soccer Now after Seattle’s 2-2 tie in the National Women’s Soccer League game. “It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now. I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and the way that a lot of the media has covered it and made it about something that it absolutely isn’t. We need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country.
— The Sacramento Bee (@sacbee_news) September 8, 2016
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
Closing thoughts on Colin Kaepernick becoming the most polarizing figure in sports:
Colin Kaepernick has captivated America with his refusal to stand for the national anthem while people of color and blacks are being oppressed and not being treated equally.
Since when have we seen a pro athlete or athletes take a stand of this magnitude who is a citizen of the United States of America, born and raised?
To the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s point, you have to go back 50 years to Muhammad Ali; now that speaks volumes to what Kaepernick is doing and could be considered as an act of bravery in some people’s eyes.
Kaepernick has said he’s willing to risk losing endorsements, potentially putting his playing career in jeopardy; he counters with pledging to donate a million dollars of his salary as aforementioned.
Also, the response from his number one jersey sales, and fellow athletes following in his footsteps, military support, President Obama, longtime activists and global icons Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are even more evidence that Kaepernick is becoming the most polarizing figure in sports.