Ever since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on the field in August of 2016, he has gained the unique ire of both football fans and casual consumers of the media, reports SB Nation. In light of recent news that Kaepernick remains unsigned to a team in the NFL, debates on his actions have ensued, with some wondering if his professional predicament is due to his controversial political activism, according to Fox Sports. As many Americans rejoice in Colin Kaepernick’s professional woes, the question comes to mind whether this man is truly deserving of such hatred. Perhaps he is instead deserving of respect and admiration.
Colin Kaepernick rose to professional prominence when he led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl victory in 2013. The football player remained an admired figure until he became politically active and chose to protest what he viewed as a system of racial injustice for African Americans, openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and criticizing police brutality, according to the Daily Mail. Colin Kaepernick wanted to raise awareness for the causes he was championing and the ideas he was promoting in a very public way. While some felt that the game was not an appropriate time to voice his concerns, most of the controversy came from the way in which Kaepernick chose to voice them. He decided to kneel instead of stand for the national anthem before every game. Many Americans were shocked and outraged at what they viewed as a blatant disrespect for flag and country, lashing out on Twitter and even burning Kaepernick’s jersey in protest, according to the Daily Mail.
Burn the jersey for Kaepernick's actions, but burn your judgment for buying the jersey of an average quarterback. pic.twitter.com/FV9S9eYcol— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) August 28, 2016
As Americans, the vast majority of us respect the flag and deem standing for the national anthem an honor, a privilege, and a duty. But what some of us do not realize is that part of being American is respecting the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and of peaceful protest. This is an especially cogent point considering that many of Colin Kaepernick’s critics are conservatives, a group that routinely rails against “political correctness” and concerns itself with the protection of our First Amendment rights. If you stand for freedom of speech, you must stand for the freedom of everyone to express any speech. This is the foundation of American democracy and what differentiates our system from both fascism and communism. Notwithstanding what some in the media may claim post-election, America is not and will never be a fascist nation, regardless of who is president.
Along with the hypocrisy and unpatriotic attitude of his critics, admonishing Colin Kaepernick for his political actions is wrong in light of his commitment to making a tangible difference in the causes that he cares about through his charity work. According to the Daily Mail, critics have accused Kaepernick of being “spoiled,” painting him as an out-of-touch star who is protesting purely to feed his ego. But his history of both monetary donations and in-person activism for the causes that he cares about says otherwise.
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick founded the Know Your Rights campaign, an organization that aimed to teach young people of color how to properly interact with police, reports the Root. At a Know Your Rights event in November, speakers addressed a large range of topics, including fiscal responsibility, natural health practices, and higher education.
Kaepernick himself interacted with attendees individually with warmth and respect, with one teen noting, “He spoke to us in a very nurturing way; he wasn’t condescending at all.”
Colin Kaepernick continues to fully fund the campaign and to do outreach work. Last week, the football player sent Bates College some “Know Your Rights” sweatshirts and a handwritten letter showing support for their student activism, according to the Bangor Daily News.
The letter reads as follows.
“Dear Bates College Office of Intercultural Education,
It is imperative that you not only know your rights, but be willing to fight for your rights and the rights of others! Stand strong and stand together!”
Even opponents who question the necessity and purpose of this activism must admire that Kaepernick is fully committed and engaged, and is clearly not just using these issues as a publicity stunt. Along with creating and supporting the Know Your Rights campaign, Kaepernick has also taken part in other charity work, pledging to donate $100,000 per month for 10 months to “organizations working in oppressed communities”, reports the Independent.
Colin Kaepernick is a man of action and a man of principle, taking meaningful steps to benefit the causes he cares about in a concrete, material way. While everyday Americans and celebrities vocally decried President Trump’s cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, Colin Kaepernick put his money where his mouth is. The Independent reports that this generous football player donated $50,000 to the Meals on Wheels America initiative, which provides hot meals to the elderly.
Kaepernick has also thrown his weight behind the Love Army for Somalia campaign, donating $50,000 and making videos in support of their efforts to send water and food to victims of the Somali drought, according to the Independent. Kaepernick and others have been using the hashtag #TurkishAirlinesForSomalia to pressure Turkish Airlines to fly donations of food and water to Somalia. His efforts have paid off, with the airline committing to send one plane filled with supplies to the famine-ravaged country.
Regardless of how you feel about Black Lives Matter and other causes that Colin Kaepernick supports, it is an indisputable fact that Kaepernick is a good man who is genuinely committed to helping communities he feels are in need and deserving of assistance. His activism goes beyond individuality and self-preservation. As many critics have noted, Colin Kaepernick is a wealthy football star who most likely will never have to worry about dangerous altercations with police officers. But his activism is not about his personal struggles. SB Nation reports Kaepernick’s explanation.
“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.”
Colin Kaepernick is committed to putting his words, actions, and money behind causes he believes in. As a man who stood up for his beliefs by sitting down during the national anthem, Kaepernick has proven himself to be a true patriot in his exercise of his First Amendment rights. Colin Kaepernick deserves nothing but respect and admiration for sticking to his principles and doing real work to effect change.
[Featured Image by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]