Update: We should have listened to Kaepernick

This is an update to a column written by former Sidekick sports editor Marcus Krum, who is currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin and writer/editor for The Daily Texan.

Column from June 1, 2020

Starting at the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided enough was enough. He took a knee during the national anthem as a symbol of solidarity with the black community and protest against police brutality and racism in the United States.

Our president didn’t want to listen. Our nation didn’t want to listen. And I didn’t want to listen.

As a 17-year-old white kid who grew up in a predominantly white community with mostly white friends, I could never have imagined the plight that black people face everyday in this country simply because of the color of their skin.

Now four years later, Terence Crutcher, Tyre King, Dominique Clayton, Eric Reason, Atatiana Jefferson, Bettie Jones, Ahmaud Arbery, Breona Taylor and George Floyd are dead. Nothing has changed.

Kaepernick’s protest was never about the flag. It was never remotely about the military. Kaepernick knelt because he witnessed the effects of a system that sets black people up for failure, that has allowed the fires of oppression and racism to rage against them for centuries, that sets them far behind the starting line before the race even begins.

There is, in fact, nothing more American than a peaceful protest in support of civil liberties. Kaepernick may have lost his job in the process of his protests (“too much baggage” NFL owners said), but he may have also sparked something far greater than anything he would’ve accomplished on a football field.

Four years removed from watching Kaepernick take a knee on the sidelines, I realize how wrong I was. Who am I to judge the protests of black Americans when I could never know what it’s like to be in their shoes? In rebuking Kaepernick’s peaceful display of protest, I was a part of the problem.

And if you’re more enraged at Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem than you are at a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes as he died, then you are too.

For those that still think “well, he can protest, but not like this” or “not right now” I implore you to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. King addresses this notion that there is a “better path” or a “better time.”

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair,” King said.

The cup overflowed years ago. It’s time for all Americans to stand with Kaepernick and with the black community, because the only way we’ll overcome this is together.

Original column from Sept. 16, 2016

Kaepernick’s stand comes with unwarranted dishonor

Colin Kaepernick has every right to do what he did.

There’s no debating that, from a legal standpoint, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback can sit down, kneel, lay on the ground, or jump up and down with his hands in the air. That is because Kaepernick has freedom of speech, a right given to him by the First Amendment and protected every day by the members of our military. From a legal standpoint, Kaepernick is clean. There is no wrong-doing in his actions.

However, in his choice to kneel during the anthem, Kaepernick creates a quite paradoxical situation. While kneeling, he directly disrespects and dishonors the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect this freedom.

But let’s not delve into that yet. First, let’s check the validity of the argument that he is making. When Kaepernick says that he “will not stand for a country that oppresses blacks and people of color”, one of his main arguments is presumably regarding the seemingly high number of white cops shooting black men. However, a study done by the Washington Post shows that in 2015, there were in fact nearly twice as many white people killed by cops as black.

In the high-profile cases of “blue on black” violence in the last year and a half, the victims seemed to be unarmed, raising eyebrows that some white policemen may instantly profile someone as dangerous due to their color of skin. However, out of the 93 cases of unarmed killings of citizens by cops, 32 of them were white and 38 black. A near identical number.

In these facts, I do not want to simplify the entirety of Kaepernick’s argument into a single topic, because with his broad statements that he declared as the reasoning for his actions, he encompassed a tyranny that has run deep in our country for years past. Racial issues, while obviously not as prevalent as in our nation’s past, are still something we are dealing with today. I am not denying that. His vague statements, however, are conducive to believing that he is focusing on the biggest racial issue that we see in mainstream media in the killing of black men by white cops.

Even so, there are many ways Kaepernick could go about this. Dishonoring the country and the military is simply not one of them, especially when his actions lead to others following suit on Sept. 11, a day that should exude patriotism and pride in our country and one another. While several players around the NFL were allowed to kneel or raise a fist during the anthem, others, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz of the Giants, were fined for wearing patriotic cleats that honored their country on the day of remembrance. Athletes were simultaneously praised for standing up against the country and punished others for simply being patriotic in a small facet of their uniform. Kaepernick has begun to lead the way in protests around the league that are just shortsighted. While he has explicitly said that he is not trying to disrespect anyone, that he is only trying to bring light to an issue that is close to him, he is bringing the military into the inadvertent crossfire.

While his intentions, although they lack clarity, may be pure, the execution of this protest is dishonorable to the country that he resides, works, and shares many freedoms in.