August 14, 2016 was the first time former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem during an NFL game. It only took a few more games of non- participation before the media firestorm hit at full force. And on August 29, 2016 at his post-game conference he made it abundantly clear why he did what he did.
“…There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. …I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. …I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Fast-forward to a year later a month into the 2017-18 NFL season and Kaepernick is still in the news, still steadfast in his social activism, and still unemployed. With the awful quarterback play of multiple starting NFL quarterbacks it is almost laughable to think that Kaepernick is not good enough to at least have a backup job. Other prominent NFL players have taken notice to the “blackballing” and have taken a knee to support their former co-worker and his cause.
Supposedly busy with natural disasters and North Korea nuclear missiles, it is assumed that the president doesn’t have time for something like what goes on in an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon. But, at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on September 22, 2017, President Trump had time.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
Though the crowd response a positive one the national and NFL backlash was unfavorable for obvious reasons. Firstly, this country was built on protest and bunking the status quo. Second, you called someone’s mother out of her name for her son peacefully protesting social inequality. And lastly, you as the leader of the free world, are pressuring bosses of a private industry to fire it’s staff for exercising their rights. Trump’s words were so egregious that the following week during the NFL games multiple teams and Owners’ joined the protest and either took a knee or locked arms during the National Anthem. Not as a support of Kaepernick’s cause but as a show of unity against Trump’s words. So now everyone is together, showing unity, and singing kumbaya.
But, what about the initial issue? What about the police brutality against unarmed minorities? What action has been taken towards rectifying that problem. Why does it always seem like that part coincidentally gets lost in the shuffle and falls on deaf ears?
When Black Lives Matter was formed to protest and combat social injustice and police brutality instead of hearing the group out and having a discussion counter-groups were formed. All Lives Matter was formed to detract from specificity of the light attempting to be shone on Black lives. When police began to be killed in retaliation to no convictions for killing Black Americans Blue Lives Matter was formed, which Trump is a staunch vocal supporter of.
The Black Lives Matter movement collapsed due to a form of victim shaming. African Americans stood up and said enough is enough when it comes to racially charged police interactions. The response they received was a thorough stat-driven response combined with multiple attempts to poke holes in the plight. Statements such as “What about black on black crime?” reigned supreme to go along with race-by-race percentages of cop killings and number crunching to disprove it. But, what kind of message is it to say to a community who is hurting to “handle your problems first then come and talk to us about what we are doing to you.” Basically telling a community of people in which order they should voice their concerns.
The truth is there is no logical correlation between citizens killing citizens and those who are trained, armed, and sworn to protect said citizens, killing citizens. What is happening is not a black outrage, it is an American outrage that should be addressed. But the status quo keeps finding ways to shift the narrative. The act of kneeling for the flag has become the front and center focal point of it all. No longer is anyone talking about police brutality, it’s all about the flag. And now the NFL has created their version of All Lives Matter with the standing and locking arms, which again has nothing to do with police brutality. The status quo has done it again, completely shifting the away from the plea of the disenfranchised to something the “powers that be” can stomach and won’t hurt their bottom line. News flash, the truth hurts. Protests and strikes were not meant to be comfortable; They were meant to make a difference.