During a pre-game national anthem in 2016, Colin Kaepernick first took the knee with one motive — he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Now merchandise and the media alike are being flooded with the likeness of Kaepernick and his gesture, but oddly, the more we see these images, the less his original message is being heard. He took the knee against high-profiling police brutality, particularly towards black people without reprimand. In an NFL media exclusive interview, Kaepernick stated, “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.”
His protest was against the murders of people like Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Terrence Crutcher and Freddie Gray (just to name a few). Their killers were either acquitted or never charged with the crime at all.
This is what Kaepernick kneels for.
But now his message is quickly being replaced by talks of Trump, and even of patriotism, military and respect for the flag.
Kaepernick did not take the knee to protest the military, neither did he take it as a sign against Trump.
While the president and others took to Twitter, calling Kaepernick out for being “unpatriotic,” they seemed to have forgotten about the many donations and programs funded by Kaepernick in efforts to aid the people of this country. Among these projects was his donation of $25,000 towards providing employment training programs for individuals who served in the military, as well as paying rent for U.S. veterans facing eviction.
These watered-down versions of Kaepernick’s protest have caused numerous uproars all across social media, and has even led to Trump’s admonition of the sports league. In return, many players and coaches took the knee as a sign of unity against Trump and his criticism of the NFL.
While it may seem like a very good idea to those taking the knee to protest Trump’s presidency, his criticism against the NFL or to show unity among the people, it can be very damaging. Through speaking with some classmates of mine, I realized that most people don’t even know the original context of ‘Take the Knee.” All they talk about is its protest against the president or its anti-American protest. Piggybacking on Kaepernick’s protest is not the way to get those other points across. If you believe in his message, then kneel with him for that and take the other stuff elsewhere. The cluster of other issues that are being pinned to this protest is just creating distractions and giving others excuses to ignore the need for equal treatment regardless of race or occupational status. Hitchhiking on ‘Take the Knee” against police brutality and immunity only puts a silencer on the original message and causes more confusion.
For Kaepernick, his protest was far greater than the game and stretched beyond just politic interests. Football is his platform, and he made it his duty to use that to stand up for what he believes in. He stated, “This stand wasn’t for me. This [protest] is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice. People that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
The protest has caught wind like wildfire, taking turns and twists that bring it far from the original purpose. All this background noise is beginning to drown out the important message of justice and equality for people of color. So are you kneeling for the people or are you just making noise?