I had to put up a funny photo to start this discussion, because unfortunately this is not one of those feel good and fun pieces that I am accustom to writing. In my decade and a half of writing about sports and wrestling I have always tried to keep politics out of my sports discussions and debates. It is becoming more clear to me that it’s not so easy anymore. Last week on the opening night of the NFL there was a new Nike commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick. In this commercial it featured many different athletes and their stories which was inspiring. The difference between those athletes and Kaepernick is that they are all still competing in their respective sport. The commercial and the images that have been seen all over show Kaepernick with the phrase “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick’s media attention has not been about what he did on the football field. It’s been about what he did off the field. He began to kneel dealing the National Anthem to protest police brutality against unarmed youth and people of color. There are no shades of gray in this situation, because you either support him or you don’t. With all of the controversy, backlash and the arguing among each other past generations have forgotten history and younger generations aren’t learning about it.
If Colin Kaepernick truly sacrificed everything he would not have been under contract with Nike all this time making millions of dollars.. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks were not paid millions to take a stand. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X lost their lives standing up for what they believed in. Before that they were beaten and jailed multiple times. During those times they preached love, tolerance and peace no matter how much violence and hatred were thrown their way. Rosa Parks was a simple and humble woman who wasn’t paid by some major corporation to stand her ground on a bus. It has been very hard from to take Kaepernick’s sacrifices seriously when he wore socks with cops dressed as pigs or when he wore a shirt with Fidel Castro on it. Those are different discussions for a different day, but the true Civil Rights leaders of our time did not throw shade at specific groups even if it might have been deserved. The biggest issue I have with Kaepernick’s “sacrifice” is that he chose not use his most basic fundamental right as an American when he admitted that the did not vote. How can you expect change if you don’t vote? Even voting in your local and state elections is where the real change begins. If Kaepernick wanted to make change he would walk the streets of neighborhoods and cities that struggle with violence. He would confront the NFL peacefully and actually meet with teams about his stance. Instead he has engaged them into a lawsuit in where he’s trying prove collusion among all the owners. When you look at all of it and put into perspective it’s never really been about sacrifice. It’s been about greed, ego, money and being self centered. There have been others who have sacrificed more and have faced bigger injustices.
When it comes to the military perspective on this situation there are two sides that are clear and to the point. One side has the attitude that Kaepernick’s protest and message has been disrespectful to military and law enforcement. To their point those in the military and law enforcement have had the ultimate sacrifice by losing their lives serving and protecting the United States of America. Another side that says that those men and women died serving so we could have the right to free speech and to protest things. I fully support those rights as long as it’s not hurting others in the process. Pat Tillman’s widow has spoke recently and told the media to stop politicizing her late husband. The reason many people use Tillman in their arguments is because he was involved in both worlds. He gave up a life of fame, fortune and being an athlete to serve this country. While serving this country he lost his life and in my opinion he made the ultimate sacrifice by being selfless, humble and realizing what he was doing was bigger than playing in the NFL. I have many friends who have served and I thank them for their service that allows me my freedoms. If it weren’t their service I wouldn’t have the freedom to write about topics like this. I will stand by my belief that we should respect and honor our military whether they have fallen or they are still here with us. A lot of those who return face injustices of their by not receiving the physical and mental medical help they need.
There are many injustices in this country like treatment for disabled veterans and honestly disabled people in general. As someone who was born with multiple birth defects and have met a lot of people with medical conditions I see they face just as many injustices as anyone else does in this country. They are many out there with congenital heart disease, pediatric cancer, mental illness and other disabilities. Where is their voice? Where is their justice? What corporation is giving them millions to speak out? Some of the disabilities have no voice, no face and no support. It’s hard for me to feel sorry for Colin Kaepernick when he’s making million and living comfortably. I see people with disabilities struggle to find jobs, fit in with society and live as comfortably as they can. When I think of causes and things I support I think of more job opportunities and more help for people with disabilities. They truly suffer more then anyone else in this country. When it comes to athletes in America do they really sacrifice and do they really suffer? Some might say the sacrifice time with their family and they suffer through injuries they sustain during their career. I would say the biggest form of suffering when it comes to athletes is NFL players who deal with CTE. That shouldn’t be taken likely and is the way the NFL hid it all those years was a completely different injustice in itself.
Whether you choose to support Colin Kaepernick and Nike is your choice and your business. I am not here to judge people on what they believe or who they support. I am merely asking people to think about the bigger picture and to ask themselves wholeheartedly who is really sacrificing and who is really suffering. There are different forms of sacrifice and different forms suffering. When I answer those questions I will say wholeheartedly that Colin Kaepernick has not sacrificed and has not suffered. The people who he supposedly sticks up for have suffered and have faced injustices that no one has had to face. I hope people this society starts speaking up for all the injustices out there and not just the one you think is worthy because an athlete says so. There are many people out there who need your help, my help and the help of this country. As I said in the beginning I try to leave politics and social issues out of my sports writing, but humanity and how we treat others out there is too big of an issue to ignore. It is also an issue to ignore the history of what people sacrifice and suffered through. Don’t glorify the rich and the famous. Remember and honor those who were humble.