For many the start of the NFL season is an exciting time. It means the start of fall, Sunday get together with your friends, and passionately cheering on your favorite team. This year, however, the act of kneeling during the national anthem being carried out by a few NFL players is shedding a dark light on the start of football season. Professional sports are often immune to political issues. Oftentimes when a heated political issue arises, a few professional athletes may weigh in but their voices are quickly forgotten. This current issue of kneeling during the national anthem has lingered for over a year, and I believe it is pretty obvious why.
In order to understand the current debate going on in the NFL today, we must look at where the debate started. During the 2016 NFL preseason, former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit during the national anthem. Although Kaepernick is no longer on an NFL team, players such as Marshawn Lynch are continuing the kneeling protest.
Not surprisingly, these protests have prompted widespread outrage, but also pockets of support. I would like to strongly proclaim that I do not have a problem with Kaepernick protesting. I think it is 100 percent healthy and progressive to have a discussion on this issue that he and others are so passionate about. What I have a problem with is how they are protesting. I find what they are doing to be very hypocritical.
For starters, we have a group of unbelievably rich athletes protesting oppression. These people get paid literally millions of dollars to play a sport. Many have come from tough areas with hard upbringings but have trained and worked hard to now play a professional sport. If this doesn’t fit the definition of the American dream, what does?
Secondly, Kaepernick has shown in other ways just how hypocritical he is. He openly supports the dictatorship of the Castros in Cuba. He wore a Fidel shirt to a press conference and when questioned on the subject he responded, “One thing Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here even though we’re fully capable of doing that.” This example of hypocrisy is almost laughable. He is fighting against oppression while supporting an incredibly oppressive dictatorship. Why doesn't Kaepernick sit down with a few people that have literally taken homemade boats and rafts from Cuba to Florida in a desperate attempt to escape Fidel and his thuggish regime? I’m sure those families can remind Kaepernick of some of their family members that tragically died in their escape from his hero Fidel Castro.
The next act that takes away greatly from Kaepernick’s protest is his wearing of socks with cops portrayed as pigs. He wore these socks multiple times during practice. He would have to be incredibly out of touch to believe doing this wouldn’t cause massive outrage. Like the wearing of the Castro shirt, this act degrades his argument. It takes the attention off the real issue and instead focuses it on a very disrespectful act.
If Colin Kaepernick simply voiced opposition to police brutality and oppression would anyone condemn his actions? I certainly wouldn’t. Although I don’t agree with him completely, I do believe the dialogue and tough discussion needs to happen. No citizen should ever fear the police so greatly that they believe they're going to be executed at a traffic stop. It greatly hurts me to know people live in that reality. And at the same time no police officer should ever have to put on their uniform believing that they are not going to make it home that day. This is a very important issue that must be handled urgently. There are so many ways to go about a protest or discussion. Kneeling during the National Anthem and wearing shirts supporting Fidel Castro or socks with pigs as cops makes the issue worse and creates more division.
Is the National Anthem just a song? Absolutely not. It is an anthem that represents a country that has prevailed through so much and done so much good. It is synonymous with our amazing military and national pride. Let’s have a discussion about police brutality and oppression. But let's not kneel during the song that represents our very right to have these open discussions.
Alexander Grzelak is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.