Political Statements in Professional Sports

: Reporter: Grace Crapps
Reporter: Grace Crapps

Four years ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick immersed himself into a national controversy by doing one small gesture during the national anthem. Taking a knee. 

His act launched a series of protests on the field. Other players joined Kaeprnick by taking a knee or raising their fists in the air during the anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick when asked about his reasoning. The NFL’s response to the protests during 2016, was brief, “players are encouraged, but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added, “we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I think it's important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement, and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals."

This summer, as protests around the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd, the NFL revisited their stance. Goodell remarked, “I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to.” His comments of regret would give the NFL a more supportive stance toward the Black Lives Matter movement.

In addition, the league stated that it would imprint “End racism” and “It takes all of us” in the end zones at each stadium. The Associated Press reported that the NFL will also allow players to wear either the name of a victim or one of the phrases: “Stop hate,” “It takes all of us,” “End racism” or “Black Lives Matter” on the side of their helmets. 

As the NFL has become more supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, trends on twitter have shown an incredibly unhappy fan base criticizing the NFL for being too political. 

The question arises: is it wrong of the NFL and professional athletes to take and promote political stances? 

When one is put in a position of power they have the moral obligation to give a voice to the unheard. More than ever, people need to rethink what it means to be “political.” In this case, regardless of political affiliation, supporting black lives should not be a question. Our nation needs to do a better job at being anti-racist and boldly showing support for persons of color who are a part of our nation.

The National Football League is a billion-dollar industry that attracts millions of viewers and has the power to shape minds for the common good. So, why not promote the equality of all? Not to mention nearly 70 percent of the league’s players are African American. 

The American story is one that speaks about freedom and I cannot help, but agree with Kaeprnick when he responds to those who are angry about his taking a knee:

“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody.”

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