By Christy Oates
On the first of this month, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now known for notoriously protesting the national anthem, was showered with boos and chants of “USA” as he entered the stadium for the Chargers versus 49ers game here in San Diego — a city with an overwhelming military presence. His protest happened to coincide with the Chargers’ 28th annual “Salute the Military” game, an undeniably controversial date to forego colors as well as the national anthem.
Since Kaepernick’s protest, three other football players — the Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane, Broncos’ Brandon Marshall and fellow 49er, Eric Reid — have also either kneeled or sat out the national anthem, all protesting a common issue: today’s racial injustice.
According to a report by The Guardian, in 2015 alone, at least 102 unarmed black people were killed at the hands of police. Black people accounted for 37 percent of the total unarmed deaths, but only 13 percent of the U.S. population. It is undeniable that America is battling racially fueled police brutality and systematic injustice. So why do the majority of Americans have a problem with football players using their platform to draw attention to the racism faced by minorities?
Kaepernick’s decision to sit out the national anthem has sent the media into a frenzy. Nearly every post on his Facebook page reprimands him for his courageous action, receiving nearly as much hate as Ray Rice, the ex-NFL player who was caught brutally attacking his then fiance in an elevator in 2014. Which begs the question, why are people more upset over Kaepernick’s decision to sit out of the national anthem in an attempt to draw attention to racial injustice, than with the racial injustice itself?
Kaepernick was quoted saying, “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.” Using his fame, he takes a stand against unjustified killings, but angry fans focus on his method of protest, missing his reasoning completely.
Although I grew up in a military family, I agree with how he took advantage of his fame to stand up and spread awareness of the oppression that millions of minorities face. My father, a military veteran with over 22 years of service, also agrees. He may not agree with kneeling for the national anthem, though he believes it is Kaepernick’s right as an American to freedom of expression. Many other veterans agree, with the hashtag #veteransforkaepernick trending on social media. One army veteran who also used the hashtag explained, “I did not volunteer to defend a country where police brutality has been swept under the rug”.
Kaepernick broke no law, instead just a pre-game tradition that is evidently more important than the message of racial injustice. The notion that our country has “liberty and justice for all” is drilled into American children as young five before they can so much as pronounce the words, let alone understand the meaning. Unfortunately, some are later forced to come to the alarming realization that the “liberty and justice for all” phrase they have been reciting since Kindergarten only applies if they are of a specific background. However, as Americans we can rally together to change this disparity.
Although police brutality is alive and well, if Americans, like Kaepernick, make an effort to acknowledge and spread awareness of this issue, we can demand accountability for police who have unjustly targeted and killed. We can also demand reform that limits racial profiling and unnecessary violence.
Whether he likes it or not, Kaepernick is now a voice for the black community. By symbolically sitting out the national anthem, he stands up on behalf of the millions of black people who fear becoming another headline, or more accurately—another covered up and forgotten victim of police brutality.
Christy Oates is a San Diego high school senior who grew up in a military family. Her father served in the U.S. Navy for over 22 years.
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