When the press finally realized, during the 2016 National Football League season, that Kaepernick wasn’t standing for the National Anthem, he explained in a press conference that he would no longer stand for a flag in a country that continues to oppress Black people and people of color. He was specifically protesting the disproportionate numbers of Black people being killed by police.
Even though his peaceful protest outraged many people, it also brought attention to the racial inequality he was compelled to kneel against. At the end of the 2016 season, Colin’s teammates voted him winner of the prestigious Len Eshmont Award. He also established the Colin Kaepernick Foundation, which works to fight oppression around the world through education and social activism.
In December 2017, Beyoncé presented Colin with Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. In her presentation, Beyoncé said, “Colin took action with no fear of consequences or repercussions, only hope to change the world for better; to change perception; to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.”
On April 21, 2018, Amnesty International awarded Kaepernick with its Ambassador of Conscience Award. This award is Amnesty International’s highest honor, recognizing individuals who promote the cause of human rights. Eric Reid, Colin’s former teammate who joined Colin in his peaceful protest, was in Amsterdam to present him with the Ambassador of Conscience Award. Like Colin, Eric is a free agent being blackballed by the NFL because of his stance.
Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty said, “The Ambassador of Conscience Award celebrates the spirit of activism and exceptional courage, as embodied by Colin Kaepernick. He is an athlete who is now widely recognized for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination.”
In accepting the award, Colin stated ‘While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralist beliefs and my love for the people.”
I recently watched a PBS documentary on how Black and Hispanic families counsel their children about staying safe when they are stopped by a police officer.
During one segment, taped in St. Louis, one of the panelists made a very poignant statement. She said, “We need our white allies to stop being allies and become our accomplices. As an ally you can come in and out when it’s convenient, but as an accomplice, you’re all in, and you are willing to put something on the line.”
The NFL team owners recently passed a new rule. This new rule states that teams will be fined if any team’s player on the field refuses to stand during the National Anthem. The rule also allows for players to stay off the field until after the National Anthem has been sung. By instituting this rule, these white owners have decided that the symbolism of what the flag should represent is more important than the reality of 70 percent of their players.
In today’s environment, I believe we could use a few more accomplices.