Home Opinion Opinion: Kaepernick’s method of protest valid, effective

Opinion: Kaepernick’s method of protest valid, effective

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Before Aug. 26, the biggest story during the NFL preseason that got many sports commentators riled up was the sluggish and messy contract negotiations between rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and the San Diego Chargers. Then people started noticing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting wrongdoings against people of color in the U.S. by refusing to stand for the national anthem, and the opinions started rushing in from both in and outside of the sports world.

One of, if not the most popular argument in this case is a simple one: supporting Kaepernick’s freedom to protest but condemning his way of doing it. Jerry Rice, a 49ers icon and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, used a variation of these words. Kaepernick’s former coach Jim Harbaugh used this argument. My own colleague, Matt Stephens, argued this in his column yesterday.

It’s a relatively safe argument that has the decency to acknowledge that freedom of expression exists while simultaneously boasting the right to have a counter opinion. It’s also an argument that ignores what a good act of protest is fundamentally supposed to do.

An effective protest should aim to disrupt everyday life in hopes of using the attention the public has toward the disruption to point out an injustice in society. Recent examples of this include the sit-in of House Democrats back in June to demand new gun legislation and the numerous individuals that attempted to interrupt Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July for a number of reasons. A successful protest aims to get the general public to see that the life as the status quo is false and there are injustices that have yet to be acknowledged.

So why is Kaepernick’s protest, a simple one that is not breaking any laws, getting so much criticism? His protest qualifies as being effective due to the amount of controversy he’s generated. He’s been a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter on Twitter for months, but it’s just now that his message is getting recognized by media and the general public. In fact, it shows his patriotism since he is wishing for a better America.

His ultimate message is valid: There is a systemic problem with how a collection of mostly white people disregard the problems in communities of color. And there’s proof, from black Americans being 2.5 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than white Americans, to the infant mortality rate of black infants in California being 2.6 times higher than white infants.

Is it because there’s the belief among Kaepernick critics that major U.S. symbols are somehow protected against freedom of expression? These symbols were not cast in stone tablets on July 4, 1776, Ten Commandments style. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has only been the national anthem for 85 years out of the country’s 240-year history, and its status may come to an end if the debate over whether the song is racist continues. Also an American symbol, the Pledge of Allegiance has only been a congressionally-approved expression for 74 years. We would not be the nation of strength and resilience that we are today if we got offended every time our symbols were not portrayed in a positive light.

There’s also the argument that Kaepernick’s protest holds no merit due to his privilege of being a NFL quarterback who earns millions of dollars. Ijeoma Oulo accurately wrote that this line of thinking “manages to be condescending, racist and ignorant all at once.”

Kaepernick isn’t the most gracious spokesperson for minority rights, as recently shown by his socks that show pigs in police hats. But his original method of protest shows that he knows how to get a dialogue started. Those who wish he had protested in a more tepid manner are more or less wishing that he would protest without garnering so much attention. In fact, it would be easier for these people to just say they want him to protest in silence and out of sight.

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