A Look into the Kaepernick Controversy
By: Ubong Ekpo
When Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem during football games, a slew of controversy and criticism came.
Kaepernick stated that his reason for kneeling was to bring awareness to the issue of police brutality and the continued systematic oppression that people of color face in the United States.
Despite him explaining this, a majority of his detractors saw his actions as a sign of disrespect to the national anthem.
Subsequently after the 2016 season, Kaepernick became a free agent, as of today he has not been signed to an NFL team.
Kaepernick’s decision to kneel eventually sparked a movement throughout the NFL. The following season, more players began to follow in Kaepernick’s footsteps of kneeling during the national anthem.
This sparked President Trump to go on a twitter rant, disparaging such players, referring to them as “sons of bitches.”
Due to what is heavily perceived as a case of colluding and blackballing of Kaepernick’s nfl career, a large amount of his supporters decided to show solidarity with Kaepernick by engaging in an NFL boycott.
This meant no longer watching or purchasing anything related to the NFL, including boycotting the Super Bowl, the largest event in American sports.
Many black celebrities then began to express their support of Kaepernick by refusing to perform at the subsequent Super Bowl Halftime shows of the past two years, such as Jay Z, Rihanna and even Cardi B.
Another debate, however has risen, specifically within the black community as into whether there is a productive result of boycotting the NFL.
Just as there were those who stood by Kaepernick, there is also those who view the boycott in a different light.
There has to admittingly be a sense of hypocrisy when Cardi B for example, turned down performing with Maroon 5 at the superbowl this year, yet still participated in several superbowl commercials. Yet she has not received any backlash for this.
However, Travis Scott and Gladys Knight faced major backlash for participating in the superbowl, some deeming them as sell outs for a dollar.
We’ve also seen Kaepernick be compared to the likes of Muhammed Ali, who went through similar circumstances, where he protested the Vietnam War and refused to enter the war draft.
This culminated in Ali being stripped of his titles, arrested and fined. The Supreme court eventually overturned the guilty plea on Ali in 1971.
However, there are major differences in Kaepernick and Ali’s activism. Ali was a much more radical individual than Kaepernick, while Kaepernick found a way to profit off the scandal with Nike commercials, Ali didn’t participate in any such,he truly did sacrifice his career in every sense of the word People need to understand there are levels to activism.
Simply going on social media and proclaiming you are outraged and you will “cancel” someone is not enough.
These actions are simplistic and purely symbolic in its nature. When the Montgomery bus boycott was executed for example, leaders didn’t simply just stop riding the bus, they also worked with organizations, were in constant talks with various political figures and politicians in order to make change.
The people who are boycotting the NFL and Superbowl, while in good spirit and mean well, are simply not doing enough.
Just as Kaepernick has the right to chose to kneel as a form of protest, others have the right to fight in their own ways. Travis Scott chose to donate money to a charity for his performance and Gladys Knight explained she felt the national anthem could bring peace and unity in such troubling times.
Colin Kaepernick is commended for taking a stand and bringing awareness to the injustices of the world. At the same time however, let us remember his way of activism isn’t the only way and there is certainly more to being an activist than just talking on social media.