On September third, one tweet brought back to the public’s eye a debate that has been raging for over two years. The tweet was seventy-one characters, twelve words, and one picture. The United States was in an uproar. Before making a judgment, we need to know the whole story.
Everything started in August 2016 when Colin Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem before his football game. Kaepernick went a couple of games before people started to notice and his protest gained popularity. Soon after, a former Green Beret talked to Kaepernick and suggested that he take a knee instead of sit, as that was more respectful to the veterans and current military forces.
The purpose of the protest was is a response to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the constant systemic racism in America. It was never about the military or meant to dishonor or disrespect the people fighting for this country. Since then, over two hundred players have joined in, from the NFL all the way to high school and college teams. Even some athletes from other sports have taken a knee, some for the same racial injustices and some for other inequalities and injustices in the country.
This peaceful protest caused some not so peaceful reactions. While some conservatives did view Kaepernick’s actions as free speech, the majority were outraged. Many people tried to boycott the NFL, which led the NFL to threaten and sometimes even stop working with players, as was the case with Kaepernick. The NFL has even created some new guidelines about the etiquette for the anthem; players can either stand or stay in the locker room. After more than two years, this conversation has not ended, and the Nike advertisement definitely did not let the flame die down.
On September third when Colin Kaepernick posted a still from the new Nike advertisement, the sports world and social media world erupted. As stated earlier, the tweet was just the slogan of the new Nike ad with a picture of Kaepernick with the tagline, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Soon after the tweet, Nike posted the full video advertisement on their page featuring other athletes such as Serena Williams, Lebron James, and Shaquem Griffin. While Nike has a contract with the NFL, they also have a multiyear contract with Kaepernick. As much as the NFL might want this issue to disappear, Kaepernick and Nike are making that impossible. The protests and conversations around them are not going anywhere.
In order to really understand the importance and impact of Kaepernick’s actions, I took the liberty to interview a couple North Parkers. First I spoke with Terence Gadsden, the athletic chaplain and then I talked to Zach Sandlin a senior offensive lineman for the Vikings. Like most people, they first saw the new advertisement on social media. Immediately, it sparked conversation again. When the protests first started, some of the football players wanted to kneel, and there was a lot of issues within the team; however, once they started having open communications it became an educational experience for all of them.
Both people believe strongly in the need to understand both sides. As Terence said, we should “sit in the uncomfortable and listen to people’s stories.” The protests are not coming out of nothing and, while it may be uncomfortable, it is crucial to empathize with other people who have different experiences than yourself. Zach mentioned how Kaepernick is a role model for a lot of athletes and seeing someone important to you stand up for something you can relate to can be so impactful. Many of the athletes of color can really resonate with Kaepernick’s point and seeing someone in the limelight take action on something they relate to has encouraged them to join in.
As students here at North Park, we need to understand what is going on around the world. The protests were started because of the racism in this country and that has not gone away. At the school football games, you will not see any kneeling and that is not because it has gone away but because as Zach explained, “‘[We] don’t have to make the public aware, because the public is now aware.”
The point of the protests at the start was to bring attention to the issue, and now Kaepernick has everyone’s attention. Just because the physical representation of the issue is gone, that does not mean the problem has been solved or that Kaepernick has given up. He has simply found a new platform to influence on. Like Kaepernick, it is our turn to find the platform best suited to fight for what we are passionate about. North Park University teaches and encourages us to get involved with the issues and speak out for what we believe and what others believe.
As Terrence explained, “Whatever you do you should know why you’re doing it and not demonizing who wants to do it. It’s their American right.” Whether you believe in what Colin Kaepernick is doing or not, you need to understand why you believe that and support your fellow students’ right to disagree with you.