OPINION: Kaepernick’s movement still stands strong

Dante Centofanti

Dante Centofanti

On Aug.  26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He would later explain his reasoning, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

A week later, his 49ers teammate Eric Reid would join. From there, Kaepernick would become the most influential and iconic American activist-athlete since Muhammad Ali and Bill Walton.

Players throughout the NFL shared his ideals and practiced them before they took the field playing the game they love every week. Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract after the 2016 season.

After watching the beautifully made Nike commercial that aired during the NFL kickoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, something hit me. After Kaepernick did the 30th anniversary of the most recognizable slogan in sports fashion justice with his beautiful narration, it occurred to me that, my God, we are going on two years now with this issue.

I am indeed a big supporter of Kaepernick and the protest movement. But that is neither here nor there.

It puzzles me how, after two years, there is still a divide within the country about the issue of the NFL player protest movement. The sides to this debate during this time amongst Americans has been to support Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter, tell them to “stand up and play” or throw up your hands and declare “I don’t care. I just want to watch football.”

As the greatest country on the planet, we have a reputation worldwide for being a resilient group of people, and it needs to come to the forefront now.

Not resilient in terms of needing to rise above this; that would imply that Kaepernick’s message is not important. The fact of the matter is that black Americans are still, in 2018, being treated as second-class citizens.

Whether it be the recent shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento or the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland three years ago or when the leader of the free world depicts Americans of the Islamic faith and Hispanic origin to be terrible citizens, it  shows injustice of a high order.

President Donald Trump has been on the record saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired.’” 

We have a problem with just about everything in this great country right now and an enormous problem is one of sensitivity. We don’t respect reasonable outlooks and opinions.

And it’s not just those who support Kaepernick; we need to show respect to those who oppose him. The men and women who have fought for our country are the greatest people on the planet.

The national anthem means something deeper to them because of the fact that they risked their lives defending it.

The 30th anniversary of the Nike “Just Do It” slogan hopefully reminds us as a nation that we need to make peace and just agree to disagree. But at the same time we need to have sensitivity to well thought out, intelligent opinions and come together as a country and not move on, but move forward.

One of my favorite quotes in history is one by the late Sen. Robert Francis Kennedy during his campaign for president, “If we have got love and understanding for our fellow citizens, we will have a new America.”

Dante Centofanti is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].