by Reggie Fullwood
As one of my pastor friends likes to say, “Let me just cut across the field” on this Colin Kaepernick issue because quite frankly I am pissed off about it.
The National Football League, especially the owners, should be ashamed of themselves. Kaepernick is a black quarterback that spent most of last season protesting the brutal treatment of blacks in America by the police. His method of protest was to take a knee during the national anthem before each game.
While many blacks and other minorities applauded the quarterback, it clearly upset many Americans – especially some white people. What I find interesting is that some of the same people that support the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights have an issue with Kaepernick’s expression of free speech.
How do we know this? Well, there have been several NFL teams that desperately need another decent to good quarterback. Kaepernick has clearly been “black listed.” The Miami Dolphins even had the nerve to recruit and sign a retired quarterback who was average at best before his retirement.
It is embarrassing and ridiculous to refuse to give a person a job because of their views and concerns that black people are getting mistreated and murdered by the police.
He’s essentially a black man that is being punished for his social consciousness by NFL owners and that’s just wrong.
That social consciousness has always been apart of sports – from Muhammad Ali to Jim Brown, black professional athletes have used their celebrity and influence to address critical issues affecting their race.
Kaepernick’s protest was an effort to use his position and voice as a NFL player to somehow influence change for the people who are suffering, and don’t have the same resources that the star quarterback has.
But here’s what is so great about Kaepernick taking his stand – he did not only talk about mistreatment, but he also put his money where his mouth is. He committed to donating a million dollars of his salary this year towards helping non profits and community groups deal with the challenges facing minority communities.
So why be socially active when you are rich and may not face the type of treatment that others do? Well the answer is simple, and Dr. Martin Luther King said it best – “Injustice anywhere is a treat to justice everywhere.”
I take my hat off to Kaepernick for his passion and commitment.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after his first protest.
He added, “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.”
So why not use your fame and high regard to address issues that help people? Whether you are an animal lover and want to protect greyhounds from being abused or you believe that funding inner city charter schools will make a difference – wealthy athletes should give back in some form or fashion.
But athletes shouldn’t be punished for fighting to raise awareness to the injustices faced by African Americans. Some will say it’s disrespectful to the flag and those in the military fighting for this country. That’s nonsense.
If I decide to take a knee or raise a fist in the air during the national anthem it absolutely doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the flag or our military. It means that America has often times been hypocritical when it comes to black people. Remember “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal?” Well us black folk are still fighting for equality in 2017.
We should applaud Kaepernick and the others that have stood up for injustice. From Lebron James, Chris Paul, D Wade and Carmelo Anthony to the NFL Players that have taken the baton and are running with it.
Too many times black professionals have strayed away from controversial issues because they didn’t want to affect their various income streams. And maybe that is exactly the goal that the NFL owners are trying to accomplish – send a message to other players who may be interested in protesting like Kaepernick.
Bravo to all of the black athletes that have stepped up, but I think all of us need to rally around Kaepernick and send a message to the NFL that what the owners are doing is wrong and clearly being discriminatory.
As the great Angela Davis once said, “The struggle is much more difficult now because racism is more entrenched and complicated.”
Signing off from protest free Everbank Field, Reggie Fullwood