Sports and politics certainly seem to have a strange way of intermingling. This is quite ironic to me because I’ve always viewed sports as an opportunity for people to put aside their differences and engage in a friendly form of competition. Unfortunately, professional athletes face an increased amount of scrutiny from the public, much of which has resulted from political statements and controversial actions.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly instances in which professional athletes should be held to a higher standard than the rest of the public. These individuals are expected to be good role models to the kids who admire them, and they have the responsibility to conduct themselves with integrity and respect when in public. However, while there are certain actions that should be scrutinized, we have to realize that professional athletes are people and they have the right to voice their opinions.
With that said, there is a specific topic that has been trending excessively on Facebook for the past few days: Colin Kaepernick. For those who may not know, Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49rs, and he has been facing intense criticism for refusing to stand during the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday evening. This is not the first time that a professional athlete has refused to stand for the national anthem, and I am certain that it will not be the last.
When questioned about his decision to remain seated, Kaepernick cited the oppression of black people as the primary motivating factor. Kaepernick went on record saying: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.
Personally, I think that Kaepernick is a complete tool, and I believe that his refusal to stand reflected a desire for attention rather than a genuine desire to do good. I mean, what do you expect from someone who wears a shirt with Fidel Castro on it? However, my opinion doesn’t matter in the slightest. Kaepernick has the right to have an extremely poor outlook on the American flag, and I support that right even if I strongly disagree with his attempts to justify it. Therefore, there is no need for me to further comment on the driving force behind his decision.
What bothers me most about this situation is how polarizing it has become. On social media, Kaepernick is either being condemned as a villain or hailed as a hero. In reality, he is neither of these. He is not a “godless commie”, and he certainly isn’t a valiant civil rights leader. He is a man who chose to exercise his 1st Amendment rights and, whether you agree with it or not, it is time to get over it.
I completely understand if you disagree with Kaepernick’s actions. He disrespected those who have fought and died to protect his rights. However, his apparent sense of self-entitlement doesn’t make him a villain, it just makes him ungrateful. The truth is, Kaepernick has harmed no one. The only thing he has damaged is his own public image. Although I personally disagree with his assessment, I recognize that he has the right to make whatever statement he wants, as long as he is willing to accept the potential consequences.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: The 1st Amendment was not written to protect the type of speech that everyone agrees with. On the contrary, it was written to protect the type of speech that some may find to be controversial or offensive. Yes, there are certain instances where speech must be scrutinized, but this is not one of them. Kaepernick’s actions may have been offensive, but they are protected in the exact same way that Donald Trump’s controversial remarks are protected.
If you support Kaepernick’s actions, that’s fine. You have the right to your beliefs, and there is no point in arguing about it. However, don’t get it twisted. Colin Kaepernick is not a civil rights hero. He is not Rosa Parks, nor is he MLK. He is not a selfless hero, but instead, a self-entitled individual who has experienced all of the “benefits” of “white privilege”. In fact, with a $25 million net worth, it appears that he is more privileged than I will ever be. If he wants to do some real good, maybe he will choose to dedicate his time and treasure towards enacting real change in the community.
Instead of focusing on real issues, we have directed our attention towards the actions of a man who is enjoying a few short moments in the spotlight. By preoccupying ourselves with his little publicity stunt, we are giving him exactly what he wants: attention. Like it or not, he is exercising his right to free speech. So let’s all just leave it at that and get back to the issues that really matter.