By Brendan Gunn
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has caused a national controversy. His decision to protest during the national anthem to bring awareness to the social injustices minorities face in this country, which he has continued to do since the 49ers first preseason game on August 14, has sparked debate.
The protests have gained traction with other athletes and coaches across all sports, including Delaware County Community College.
The head coach for the Phantoms volleyball team, Chris Adamkiewicz, says athletes should act upon these injustices rather than simply protest.
“I am all for my players trying to fight hate and oppression, just not during the national anthem, but in true action and volunteer work to eradicate such behaviors,” said Adamkiewicz, who spent the previous two seasons coaching at Valley Forge Military College. “Do acts that contribute to change. Do not just take the easy way out and protest with no action or solutions behind your protest.”
Meanwhile, others say the protests are an excellent way to bring awareness to social issues.
“We all have platforms in whatever positions we have and we use it as such,” said Suni K. Blackwell, DCCC’s athletic director. “Kaepernick has a huge platform and he’s using it to bring awareness to what he believes in, which is a righteous and good cause.”
According to a government oversight report released in November 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense paid over 50 professional sports teams and leagues for patriotic displays during games.
This includes the payment of the NFL in 2009 when the league made it mandatory for teams to be on the sidelines during the national anthem. Prior to 2009, the league did not televise the national anthem, nor have the players on the sidelines; instead, they were in the locker room.
It has also been documented that the writer of the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, was a notorious slave owner, which could make some athletes and fans contemplate whether he even had African Americans in mind when he wrote it.
So are the players disrespecting the military like skeptics say, or are they just taking advantage of the system to bring awareness to their beliefs?
“I believe these protests are a good thing because they are peaceful protests, and the issues the players are protesting need to be taken seriously,” said Brian Vendetta, 22, a DCCC student majoring in Liberal Arts and former high school athlete. “The players have stated multiple times that they have respect for the military members and the protests have nothing to do with them or the work they put in to protect the country.”
Despite some backlash, in the weeks following Kaepernick’s first protest, his jersey became the highest selling jersey on the NFL’s official site, and sold more units than the previous eight months combined.
Kaepernick pledged to donate all funds received from the sales to inner city communities and charities.
In addition to the proceeds from the jersey sales, Kaepernick is due to make $11.1 million this season and has vowed to donate the first million he receives to charity.
After his team’s third preseason game, Kaepernick changed his way of protesting from sitting down to kneeling, after former NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer called him to discuss the matter.
Boyer let Kaepernick know, even though Kaepernick was not trying to disrespect the military, he was inadvertently doing so.
Boyer and Kaepernick came up with the idea to kneel because when soldiers honor a fallen soldier they kneel at his casket before sending him off, so this way Kaepernick can protest for his beliefs without accidentally disrespecting the military.
Kaepernick, along with many other athletes, continues to protest during the anthem, and says he has no intentions of stopping in the near future.
“I want to see a healthy discussion come out of these protests,” Blackwell said. “I want to see people with open minds and open hearts paying attention to what’s going on, here, in our United States of America. No rights should be put on a different playing field just because it’s socially acceptable, or won’t ruffle a few feathers.”
Contact Brendan Gunn at firstname.lastname@example.org