Colin Kaepernick is succeeding in keeping issues of racial justice in the national spotlight. And I can only hope that the light is shining especially bright this week after the latest police killings in Oklahoma and North Carolina.
The images of black men being gunned down in the streets are undeniable, and it’s unfortunate that they do not yield the same visceral response from some as Kaepernick taking a knee. (Looking at you, Drew Brees, Kate Upton, #BoycottNFL crowd.)
Former Cal running back and current Bay Area resident Marshawn Lynch offered an entree into the issue.
“If you’re really not racist,” Lynch said on Conan, “you won’t see what he’s doing as a threat to America, but just addressing a problem that we have.”
And we have a problem. (The notion that if the victim had “just listened to orders, he’d still be alive” is an unacceptable standard.)
What’s encouraging is that Kaepernick might’ve started his demonstration as an unplanned move, but has dealt with the repercussions with aplomb. From stating in no uncertain terms that he is not protesting the troops or all police officers, to pledging $1 million to community groups (he plans to dole out $100,000 a month for 10 months, which you’ll be able to track online), Kap has moved the message forward while limiting the validity of the traditional deflections: “Why doesn’t he put his money where his mouth is?”; “He just wants attention”; “His girlfriend is turning him into a Muslim.” And on and on and on …
Sure, he is not being welcomed by the masses with open arms. According to a survey conducted by E-Poll Marketing Research, Kaepernick’s likability among white people has plummeted this season, as ESPN reported Wednesday. But the quarterback knows that comes with the territory.
“To be honest, it’s something that [his detractors] either don’t care about what’s going on or they don’t understand it. Which I find it very hard that people don’t understand what’s going on,” Kap told reporters Tuesday.
If you find yourself opposing Kaepernick and his message at this point, I implore you to listen. Learn from those who have different experiences than you. People are dying, and the state, which is a reflection of all of us, is allowing it to happen. This can’t happen.
“No matter what side of the spectrum you’re on, I would hope that every American is disgusted with what is going on around the country, what just happened in Tulsa two days ago, [with] Terrence Crutcher,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Wednesday. “Doesn’t matter what side you’re on in the Kaepernick stuff, you’d better be disgusted with the things that are happening.”
Kerr rightly predicted that a similar movement will sweep through the NBA when its season launches in the beginning of November. And on the heels of the death of Keith Lamont Scott, the athlete demonstrations shouldn’t stop until real change is made. And that means a dismantling of many of our current structures that allow for the destruction of families and communities.
It won’t be quick, but important change never is.
Richard Sherman, who famously broke up Kaepernick’s attempted NFC Championship winning pass in 2014, originally refused to take questions on Wednesday ahead of the Seattle Seahawks’ game against the 49ers, preferring to keep the discussion on more substantial issues.
“I think the state of things in the world today is very interesting,” the former Stanford Cardinal said. “I think you have players that are trying to take a stand and trying to be aware of social issues and try to make a stand and increase people’s awareness and put a spotlight on it and they’re being ignored.”
He spoke of performing community service and trying to encourage children despite the circumstances of the world around them.
“When you tell a kid, ‘When you’re dealing with police, just put your hands up and comply with everything,’ and there’s still a chance of them getting shot and no repercussions for anyone, that’s an unfortunate time to be living,” Sherman said. “… And something needs to be done. And so when a guy takes a knee, you can ignore it. You can say he’s not being patriotic, he’s not honoring the flag. I’m doing none of those things. I’m saying, straight up, this is wrong and we need to do something.”
Sherman is right, and it’s never too late to listen, learn and join the fight to make this country just for everyone.