Kaepernick highlights America’s problems

There’s a difference between leading a National Football League (NFL) team and leading a nation forward; Colin Kaepernick is that difference.

Every corner we turn as a nation, a new opinion arises about the various social issues that consume the U.S.. One of the  issues dominating headlines most recently is that of Black Lives Matter movements. Within those movements, pop culture has played a large role, with artists, athletes and various other non-political figures voicing their opinions. Most recently, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been front and center, pushing the boundaries of civil rights in general.

Kaepernick expressed his concern about the current civil rights issues in America when he knelt during the national anthem before a preseason NFL game, and continued this by kneeling during the national anthem of games during Week 1 and 2 of the NFL season.

Thus far, his decision has been met with controversy. In response to Kaepernick, the protest has spread and encompassed a multitude of NFL players in the opening week of games as well as Megan Rapinoe of the United States Women’s Soccer Team and various high school athletes. Beyond the realm of sports, rappers J. Cole and Trey Songz wore Kaepernick jerseys during recent concerts while President Barack Obama has shown support for Kaepernick: “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. If nothing else, he’s generated more conversation about issues that have to be talked about,” he said.

Financially, it’s clear that people are in support of Kaepernick and his message. Prior to taking a stand, Kaepernick had the 20th highest selling jersey on the 49ers. By September 8, he had the highest selling jersey in the NFL. Proceeds of sales are being donated “back to communities,” Kaepernick said.

While many have supported the backup quarterback’s endeavors, there has been hostility coming from other parties. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said,  “I understand and respect the cause … but I love the flag,” demonstrating the split opinion this action has raised.

Living in a time where highly publicized cases of civil rights, such as those of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and EricGarner, injustice has become a talking point in the race discussions that have spread across America. Much of what has been thrown against Kaepernick surrounds showing respect for the troops that have given their lives fighting for America. People fail to acknowledge that the flag also represents the freedoms that troops have fought for all these years.

Speaking on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, Former NFL cornerback and coach Herm Edwards relayed a story of his father, who served in the military, who told him “you have the freedom to speak, you have the freedom to ask questions, you can ask people why… I put my life on the line for you to do that [ask why]” and that is exactly what Kaepernick has done.

While met with animosity, Kaepernick has brought issues that have encompassed media discussions into the public eye, something that should be commended.

Published author and former army veteran Charles Clymer tweeted “Don’t use my service–or that of any veteran – to justify the silencing of black Americans. Not on my watch. #VeteransForKaepernick.” That tweet is one of thousands featured under the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick, showing the support Kaepernick has garnered from military personnel.

An athlete’s role extends past the sport they play in the generation we live in right now. Growing up, kids don’t look to politicians to be heroes, they look to musicians, artists, athletes and other, more relatable, figures. Kaepernick is raising awareness for a topic that needs to be discussed, and I commend him for that – we need to talk about it, and it takes figures such as Kaepernick to continuously bring it into the public eye.