NFL player protests are back in the news, after President Trump tweeted that they were the reason attendance was down across the league. I won’t get into how that theory is wildly unproveable, so I’ll just mention that attendance is down by around 1 percent from last year. This is a number made more insignificant by the fact that last season was the third-highest ever in terms of attendance.
The real problem here is that we have again gone completely away from why and how this all started. In the 2016-2017 season, Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, he told reporters after a game, “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 added, “There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The protests were never about the anthem, or disrespecting the flag or the troops. It was about racial inequalities and social injustices. It’s about unarmed black people being shot and killed by police officers and those officers walking away completely unpunished, over and over.
When a player is injured in football, like most other sports, both teams will take a knee, as a show of solidarity and empathy for the injured player. The United States is a divided nation lately. Injured, fractured, whatever you want to call it, we are hurting. The only way to heal and get better is to come together to talk about these important issues.
Kaepernick saw something that he didn’t like in America, and he had the tremendous courage to use his platform to try and send a message. His form of silent protest, which is protected under the Constitution, cost him his career. His goal was to start a conversation about how to make our country a safer and fairer place to raise our children. That’s about as patriotic as you can get, without actually enlisting.
Our troops fight and die to protect our freedoms, freedoms like the First Amendment that are guaranteed under the Constitution. Having the right to peacefully protest injustice and inequality is at the bedrock of any democracy. Some of us seem to have forgotten that.
I just hope that history will be kinder to heroes like Kaepernick than his contemporaries.