The Power of Sports Showing Solidarity to the BLM Movement

Sofia Cruz, News Editor

Since the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013, it has made its way into major forms of media, especially widely televised sports networks. Famous players such as Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, have protested in various ways to shed light on this subject, such as kneeling for the national anthem. These peaceful actions faced serious backlash, as Kaepernick and those who followed his example were widely criticized by the mainstream media and were heavily shunned by the National Football League. Nevertheless, it is important to note the positive contributions that sports players have brought through these performances as they have used their large platform to raise awareness about systemic racism in the United States, inspired others to use their voice, all while having not violated any official laws in regards to rules on respect.

What truly empowers these protests is the fact that they include the use of power and influence that sports professionals often have to promote necessary change. Many celebrities and known individuals choose to ignore pressing issues like police brutality, therefore choosing to remain complicit. Players such as Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, have risked their careers to fight for the rights of black people and other minority groups. Kaepernick himself stated that he was inspired to first kneel in response to a case where a San Francisco policeman shot a black man 20 times and killed him during a confrontation. His motivations were selfless, and his form of protest was entirely peaceful, making his non-violent demonstration garner respect. In the end, Kaepernick lost his position with the San Francisco team and no longer plays football. An NFL executive later admitted that he was outed because his controversial actions made him undesirable to teams that solely sought profits. This illustrates how he faced repercussions and the end of his career not because he wanted to, but because he felt compelled to spread his message. In fact, the National Football League player has been compared to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who was also criticized for his peaceful protests back in the 1960s.

Although some Americans argue that racism no longer exists, it is undeniable that discrimination is still rampant in the United States today. Kaepernick led the phenomenon of kneeling in 2016, yet it is 2020 and not much has changed. Black people are still three times more likely to be killed by the police despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed and only making up thirteen percent of the U.S. population. This proves that it is still necessary to educate citizens on racial bias, which is exactly why protests such as kneeling are so vital to help bring about change. They spread awareness by getting media to report their stories and therefore allow those with influence such as athletes to share their message of promoting equality in a peaceful manner. In recent months, the deaths of black people at the hands of police such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor prove that public shows of support for the black community are necessary as police brutality is still an issue.

“I believe these protests are very helpful in helping people realize how deeply the Black Lives Matter movement affects everyone. It is a great way to silently protest and show support,” sophomore Cristel Cantarero said.

Different instances like that of Kaepernick’s kneeling did also have lasting effects as this small act encourage many others to take a stand. On Thursday, Aug. 28, the New York Mets and Miami Marlins baseball teams walked off the field after holding a 42 second moment of silence and placing a BLM t-shirt on the home plate in as a show of solitude in response to the story of Jacob Blake, a black man who was recently shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The following day, one hundred employees of the National Basketball Association also held a walkout to protest Blake’s shooting and calling for social reform along with demanding for the officers responsible to be held accountable. Additionally, all NBA players have placed phrases from the Black Lives Matter movement on their jerseys rather than their last name, highlighting their solidarity while playing. This illustrates how normalizing protests among those with wide audiences leads to even more people joining a cause. Without Kaepernick taking the first steps by kneeling, many others may not have had the courage to stand up for what is right as well.

I think many athletes understand the privilege of their jobs so it’s great that they’re able to speak out to the masses

— Sarah Whalen

There are those who were upset by Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, claiming that it is disrespectful to the United States flag. However, according to Section Eight of the U.S. Flag Code, kneeling is not disrespectful to the flag as it does not mention what should not be done. On the other hand, this same code does state that “no part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform” like bedding or clothing. Yet somehow these restrictions are hardly ever mentioned when merchandise that breaks these rules is constantly being produced and purchased. There are hardly ever objections to everyday disrespect to the flag because critics of these movements tend to pick and choose when to follow rules, which is not blatantly unfair. Furthermore, the players that chose to kneel solely did it to protest police brutality, and never had any intentions of disrespecting the flag or anything that it stands for. Therefore, invalidating such an argument which attempts to undermine the true meaning of these protests.

Although America is an impressive nation that inspires patriotism and pride among many of its citizens, this does not mean the country is perfect. As a result, peaceful protests that simply attempt to call out its flaws should be welcomed in order to make the U.S. even greater. Kneeling is a prime example of one of these peaceful protests and should be respected for the fact that it is highlighting the flaws in this nation, spreading awareness, and inspiring others to make some good trouble. Hopefully, movements such as these will soon bring true equality to all American citizens.