By Scarlett Beard ’22
In 2016, when Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem of the pre-season game, the world was shocked. This led to boycotts and polarizing opinions on his actions. Little did we know, four years later, a large crew of athletes would be joining him in taking a stand by sitting out games. Despite Kaepernick’s action being viewed unpopularly by some, it generated press and attention, and he got people thinking about racial injustice.
During COVID-19, millions synthesized the murder of George Floyd and understood the extent of police brutality and systematic issues that endanger Black lives. This led to millions of athletes of color and of privilege alike to show frustration by kneeling during the national anthem or refusing to play. People are taking even further of a stand, and Kaepernick’s initial protest of kneeling seems to have grown popular. It now represents a bare minimum for many athletes who have chosen to use their power for the greater good. Many athletes are simply unwilling to stand up for a country that is not holding Black Americans with the same regard as white Americans.
Now, during the NBA season, all athletes are wearing shirts with the Black Lives Matter logos on them as they play. Though I’m sure many who do not support the movement are unhappy with this, it has become an accepted norm for athletes to be activists on the court. In the words of Lebron James: “What's your purpose in life? Create change, motivate and inspire others are some of mine. I just want to continue to make you all proud. Love you. #thankyouKaepernick #justiceforbreonnataylor.” Thanks to Kaepernick, athletes all over the world are able to share their voices without facing the penalties Kaepernick experienced. He has inspired a revolution where athletes can harness their power for justice and the greater good of the American people.
After Kaepernick made the political statement to kneel during the national anthem, the NFL responded by canceling him, taking away his ability to make a living, and no longer endorsed his skills whatsoever. Kaepernick did a lot to pave the way for activism in athletics. He had something to stand for that felt more important to him than the national anthem. In a post-game interview, he said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.” He continued, “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.” These statements have resonated with many athletes and have created a ripple effect. It is ironic how commissioners are now apologizing for their lack of action and acknowledgment of the Black Lives Matter movement. Still, the NFL silenced Kaepernick in his attempt at empowering and standing up for Black lives. With this, their apology leaves something to be desired: “Action not words will show the world what side of history the NFL is on.”