I was a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. I remember even spending over $50 on a cheesehead when I went to a preseason game at Lambeau Field against the New Orleans Saints. I remember seeing in person Aaron Rodgers throwing the winning touchdown to Randall Cobb in Soldier Field as the Green Bay Packers clinched the division on a last minute play against the Chicago Bears. Ever since then, I was seeing more about players like Ben Roethliesberger getting in trouble for sexually assaulting 19 year old girls in nightclub restrooms, Ezekiel Elliot forcing a girl to flash the camera by pulling up her shirt exposing her breasts, and Tyreek Hill beating his girlfriend while in college. Actions from these NFL players started to disenfranchise me from being a fan of the NFL. Many of the NFL fans began looking the other way because the players I’ve mentioned excel at their craft and help their teams win football games. Then, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and it sent the world in an uproar because he took a knee during the presentation of the American flag and while the Star Spangled Banner was being performed. This turned me away from the NFL, not because of Kaepernick, but because how people treated this issue and how we turn a blind eye at the oppression going on while scolding the oppressed. This stuff matters. We have a real epidemic. Here are the reasons why this goes beyond sports.
- This is a microcosm of the racial divide that exists in the United States. The kneeling is due to the issues of police brutality and the disproportionate rates that are occurring with the percentage of African Americans being arrested and jailed for non-violent crimes as opposed to Caucasians. The conservative NFL fanbase is angry with Kaepernick for disrespecting the flag and/or stating that during that time, it is not a time to protest. I apologize that your little entertainment got interrupted and that you cannot ignore this issue just like you have ignored every single issue that plights African Americans and other minorities in our country. Ignoring the plights fans the flames of injustice. Addressing the issue and taking action douses the flames of injustice. Based on this, here is a checklist of solutions I have:
- Listen= I am ashamed of the behavior of our country. I am ashamed that we have not heeded the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This makes me sick as an American. Why are we attacking the voice of the voiceless? Colin Kaepernick is using football as a platform to espouse causes that are greater than himself.
- Show Empathy– Listen, how about instead of attacking the voice for the voiceless, start asking questions. Start reflecting. Start thinking about who we are putting in power. I just want us to set our differences aside and have dialogue, after all, the elephant is in the room.
- Think About Privilege– Inquire with someone that is gay if they have been looked at differently from family or friends just because they are gay. Ask those men in Oakland who were harassed for BBQing while black. Ask someone of Arab or someone that is a Muslim if they have ever been asked if they are a terrorist just because their name is Muhammad or are from the Middle East. Ask the Latino if they have been asked to leave their country although they were born here. How about using your power and privilege for good, to help the oppressed, to help “the least of these”, after all, isn’t that what Christ would want?
- Examine Your Priorities– I am going to give you a list of football players. Greg Hardy. Ben Roethliesberger. Michael Vick. Adrian Peterson. Ray Rice. Aaron Hernandez. Tyreek Hill. Marcus Peters. In fact, since 2000, over 1,700 arrests have been made in the NFL. A lot of them for violent crimes, whether it was towards women or in Adrian Peterson’s case, abusing his son. Yes, some of them were for non-violent crimes such as shoplifting or possession of illegal drugs. The treatment towards women, children, dogs, and even black on black crime didn’t turn you away. Someone that made a conscious choice to kneel to raise awareness about issues in regards to police brutality turned you away. In other words, a flag and a song(in which the NFL has received tax money from the Pentagon since 2009 to do this because it will raise military recruitment awareness) holds more value to you than violence towards women, child abuse, animal abuse, and black on black crime. Where are we at America? In case you didn’t notice, this was never about the flag or our anthem or how we look at our military and veterans. We want better for our country. It should always be a struggle in the cause for political freedom, especially with the government that we have.
This issue matters. It is a microcosm of the racial and political divide that is in our country. I would love to sit down with Colin Kaepernick and see what we can do to make this country better. Dialogue needs to happen, how are we supposed to get better as a country if we don’t try to listen to one another? For us to know peace, there must be empathy and understanding. The fact is, I cannot sit passively by and ignore the oppressed and mock the oppressed. I cannot turn away when there is injustice and when fellow Americans are being marginalized and not receiving that opportunity to be looked at equally under the law. Kaepernick is warning us. Are we going to listen?
Lastly, think about this question. Adam Lanza(Sandy Hook), Nicolas Cruz(Parkland), Dylan Rooff(Charleston Church) who all committed massacres were arrested calmly. Eric Garner(untaxed cigarettes), Stephon Clark(committed no crime, officers mistook a cell phone for a gun while he was at his grandmother’s house), Philando Castile(shot and killed while complying with officers in Minneapolis, who fed schoolchildren every day), why were the three that committed the massacres get their day in court but Garner, Clark, and Castile don’t? I am writing this demanding that every citizen has equal treatment under the law. I am calling for an end to police brutality and for our officers to be investigated and blacklisted if they are found to have committed acts of police brutality in an independent investigation. Most importantly, I am asking you to listen to one another. I am asking for healthy dialogue that will help us progress as a country. I am just asking you to ask “why are you protesting”, let’s come to an understanding here.