Even those who know nothing about sports have likely heard about Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback who made waves when he decided to remain seated during the national anthem as an act of protest. As Kaepernick explained after the 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. To me, 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.”
Though Kaepernick’s action is quite literally the definition of a peaceful protest (not to mention a legal and non-disruptive one), a whole lot of people freaked out at the idea of Kaepernick “disrespecting America” and “bringing politics into football.” Now in an excellent article for The Guardian, writer Ijeoma Oluo pushes back against the mountains of complaints that have been aimed at Kaepernick. Or as she puts it, “Every argument against Kaepernick’s protest is wrong. Every single one.”
Oluo starts by noting “there is nothing more American than protest,” citing the Montgomery bus boycotts, the Stonewall riots, and the Boston Tea Party as just a few famous examples that prove protest is built into America’s “history” and “mythology.” She then proceeds to break down each argument against Kaepernick point by point, building to a rebuttal of the idea that the NFL quarterback should “just stick to football”:
Furthermore, the thought that there’s ever a “bad time” to discuss racial oppression and police brutality is incredibly privileged and harmful. Black Americans do not get to decide when to encounter racism and police brutality in America. People have been killed while cosplaying with a toy sword, while reaching for a cellphone, while walking up the stairs to their own apartment. A brown friend of mine was pushed and kicked a few weeks ago by an elderly white lady for daring to walk in front of her in a crosswalk.
We cannot choose when racism affects us, and it is cruel to insist on choosing when discussions of racism affect you. You can be a professional football player, an accountant, a politician, a teacher–if you are black, you cannot escape the harmful and even deadly effects of racism in America. Colin Kaepernick is black every minute of every day of his life, and his money and his fame will not remove that blackness. Nor will they keep him safe when he’s out of uniform.
The whole article is well worth a read as is the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, in which former military men and women—many of whom are black—have been vocally showing their support for Kaepernick’s right to protest.