If you don’t recognize the name Colin Kaepernick you are neither a sports fan or watch TV commercials. Kaepernick is a professional football player, the former star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Two years ago, he drew the attention of the nation when he got down on one knee and raised his fist to the right hand during the playing of the national anthem during the pregame ceremonies. This action angered a lot of people who called him everything from unpatriotic to treasonous (and other far more hurtful things). The NFL blackballed him, and he hasn’t played since.
I admit I too felt saddened, Sunday football is an All-American ritual, a day we get together in community to cheer our team. In football stadiums around the Country, people of every color and creed embrace one another in a sense of joyful unity and shared purpose. But such momentary game day camaraderie is well planned marketing effort that sells an image of mutual respect that is rarely demonstrated when we return home. In our communities we are still fighting social injustice and inequality.
What Kaepernick did was publicly address those inequities and make us face the need of becoming a Nation whose ideals we actually live every day. I think his action is a statement about what makes America great. This is just a manifestation of this generation’s civil rights activism. The demonstrations of the 60’s were also wildly unpopular in the beginning, but are now seen as essential in the ongoing struggle for racial equality in this country.
Last week, Nike, one of the world’s largest conglomerate and trendsetters chose Colin Kaepernick to become a company spokesperson. They made a commercial showing the infamous kneeling clips to which they added this tagline “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”.
The public’s reaction was again one of outrage… Nikes stock fell, people marched in the streets and burned their products, but I think what they succeeded in doing was to make Colin’s story into a hero’s journey. In America we stand up to fight injustice even if it means enduring enormous sacrifice because that’s what makes America great.