“Oh say can you see?” Apparently Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers can see very well and refuses to ignore the injustice that permeates American society.
The professional football player refused to stand for the national anthem and has indicated he will not stand because there is too much wrong in the United States, especially the killing of Black people by law enforcement officers.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Mr. Kaepernick told NFL media in an exclusive interview. “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.”
According to NFL.com, the refusal to stand for the national anthem came before the 49ers’ preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium. He also failed to stand at least once at another pre-season game, said NFL.com.
His decision brought out the Twitter trolls with racist rants and inevitable denunciations of the quarterback as a “nigger.” It brought a lot of media coverage and pressure but the onetime Super Bowl quarterback doesn’t plan to retreat.
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he told NFL.com. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
His public statements are part of an awakening after he learned more about American injustice and inequality.
But Mr. Kaepernick’s words sting Americans who would rather deny any problem exists and they feel especially insulted.
Professional sports and professional football is one of the gods of American society. Sports heroes are imbued with the mantle of, well, heroes, and fans live and die with their adversity. Triumphs are a collective and vicarious joy and defeats are collective and vicarious pain. On the field athletes talk about family, teamwork, love of the organization and caring for one another in what is a cruel and duplicitous business.
Fans watch football to escape reality. To see Black and White together all one color, whatever the team uniform is, brings a superficial feeling that everything is all right—at least on Sundays.
Though Black players are often singled out for derision and insult when things don’t go right, the altar of professional football cherishes the mythical idea that things are fine and we can be one.
Any intrusion into that sacred fantasy realm is taken as a desecration of the temple, a disruption and an unwelcome jolt back to reality.