Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light
that Kaepernick may be right, in exercising his right
Many are questioning Colin Kaepernick’s patriotism because he has chosen to sit during the national anthem. Kaepernick, a quarterback for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, refuses to stand during the national anthem and pay homage to the flag because of the senseless killings of people of color by the police. Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
As you may have gathered from the name of my blog, LaKo’s Lessons From Sports, I do believe that there are lessons from sports that can apply to certain aspects of our individual lives as well as the general culture. “Commenting on the relevance of studying the intersection of sport and other social institutions, one sociologist notes that ‘there exist numerous institutional interconnections amount the basic institutions of a society, and changes in one sphere reverberate into others because of their systemic connections.’” – p. 11, Sports Law & Regulation: Cases Materials & Problems, Third Edition, 2013.
Football, collegiate (NCAA) as well as professional (NFL), is the biggest sport in this country. In 2015, the NFL’s revenue was $13 billion. So, anything that affects the bottom line in football or even have a potential impact on that bottom line, will draw media attention, praises or condemnation from fans. But, will it influence policy in anyway?
Let’s take a look down memory lane. When the football team at the University of Missouri joined the protest against campus racism, the university president was fired, I mean resigned. Would that happen if the swim team protested? Not likely. Jackie Robinson’s integration of Major League Baseball was as much a contribution to the Civil Rights Movement as Rosa Parks not getting up on the bus. Would Barack Obama be the President of the United States had not Tony Dungy became the first African American NFL coach to win the Super Bowl? Again, not likely. And, that’s because sports, in particular football, has the power to change the hearts and minds of those who would otherwise remain removed from the issues. Some “argue that a systemic entwinement between sport and politics arises because sport as a social institution typically reinforces societal values, including those of a political nature. Consequently, sport ‘serves as a preserver and a legitimator of the existing order.’” – p. 17, Sports Law & Regulation: Cases Materials & Problems, Third Edition, 2013.
This is why this is such a big deal. The biggest stage of sports in the U.S. is being used to give a voice to the voiceless. While Kaepernick is just one player and not even the most popular player in the NFL, his message is getting attention because it’s the NFL. Imagine what would happen if Cam Newton of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers decided to protest North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2. Change would come and come quickly.