Alex Kim

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United as One: The Story of Colin Kaepernick and his Impact Today

July 18, 2021


Racism. Prejudice. Discrimination. Just words on paper, but ultimately holding a much deeper, darker sense of realism underneath the shadows of prosperity. It’s a dark cloud hovering over us, one of the few failures that we as humans have failed to approach with a fixed solution. In a world seemingly more dependent on race, biased stereotypes based on skin tone have been incorporated into several components of today’s society, so often that they are misinterpreted as factual statements. To speak out, protests and shouts of justice are becoming more common. In fact, according to the New York Times, “more than 40 percent of counties in the United States” had a protest regarding the BLM, or Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020 alone. 
 
Racially driven political statements are not unusual in sports. From Jesse Owens’ inspirational four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics to an unprecedented rise of the MLB’s very own Shohei Ohtani amidst “Asian-hate” crimes, these seemingly minor cases of representation and vigilance in the spotlight can cause quite the media attention toward the importance of equality. Take the case of Colin Kaepernick for example. 

The driven player was a star high school athlete and performed tremendously in both baseball and football. When he decided to play college football on a scholarship, he went to Nevada. After being drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 season, he led the team to a Super Bowl berth the following year, where his team would play the Baltimore Ravens. Known for being a versatile QB who could scramble if needed, Kaepernick completed 16 of his 28 passes and threw for 302 yards against a gritty defense, but could not stage a comeback substantial enough to win the game. 

Fast forward to 2016, and Kaepernick was still the 49ers starting QB. He however would ultimately be plagued by surgeries to his thumb, knee, and shoulder. It was in rehabilitation at the start of the 2016 season when he began protesting. Alongside safety Eric Reid, Kaepernick began sitting (and eventually kneeling) during the national anthem to shed light on the crisis of racial inequality. The gesture was quite heated, with many stating that political affairs should be left out of sports. Yet some applauded the stance they were taking. They were letting their opinions shine on the brightest of places, on an American stage generations old. 

After an abysmal 2016 season (2-14 overall, 1-7 at home, tying the franchise’s worst home record ever), the 49ers underwent a massive change in their coaching staff, hiring Kyle Shanahan as a replacement. Kaepernick did not like Shanahan’s playstyle, so he opted out of his 6 year, $114 million deal. It was later reported by CBS Sports that the 49ers would have dropped him regardless of the outcome later that offseason.

When asked why he began to kneel during the anthem (via CNN), Kaepernick responded that he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Colin Kaepernick saw the dire situation of social injustice and took the matter into his own hands. He realized that to make a substantial impact on a crucial dilemma such as racism, the message must be spread onto a global viewpoint. While public demonstrations can achieve national attention, they are temporary events and are soon forgotten by the collective eye, hence not creating an influence for the future. Unlike former athletic protests, however, Kaepernick’s pose wasn’t just a brief trend. It was a movement, a revolution for those living as a minority. 

Kaepernick is still unsigned to this day. His buddy Eric Reid would be signed by the Carolina Panthers in 2018 and break two franchise records for the safety position. He would be released later in 2020. It is evident that these trailblazers stood up for what they believed was right, and it ultimately costed them everything. Yet it currently seems as if Kaepernick’s bravery was in vain, as bigotry and prejudice are very much alive. Pandemics, wars, missiles, deaths, floods, fires, tragedies, but we cannot get over the mountain of racial injustice. Humans have been through so many challenges, but this is finally a challenge we cannot solve? The reason why civilization is growing is because we learn from our mistakes and change for the better. Kaepernick has done his part on the stage. Now it’s our turn to rise and stand united as one. 

There's no room for racism.
​Sources: 
https://apnews.com/article/colin-kaepernick-american-protests-police-san-francisco-49ers-sports-general-f9bbe38b748072531b07713736409181
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html
https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/us/lebron-james-black-lives-matter-nba-spt-trnd/index.html
https://www.espn.com/nfl/game/_/gameId/330203025
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2017/06/29/chip-kelly-defends-colin-kaepernick-49-ers-qb-zero-distraction/439047001/
https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/28/politics/obama-colin-kaepernick-nfl-national-anthem-presidential-town-hall-cnn/index.html
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18389711/san-francisco-49ers-announce-firings-gm-trent-baalke-coach-chip-kelly
https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/the-49ers-wouldve-cut-colin-kaepernick-if-he-hadnt-opted-out-of-his-contract/
https://web.archive.org/web/20140701032620/http://overthecap.com/cap.php?Name=Colin%20Kaepernick&Position=QB&Team=49ers
https://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/article241303576.html

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