Updated: Sep 28, 2020
One of the most controversial acts in the news today is athletes “taking a knee” at sporting events during the “Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. The most notable athlete to have taken a knee is probably Colin Kaepernick. Many people have been outraged at Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem, but the professional football player insists that it is not out of disrespect that he does this. He is trying to highlight a problem in the US.
Racial profiling, systemic racism, and the murder of Black people by White police officers have played a part in the decision to kneel at National Football League (NFL) games. The NFL sided with the outrage by the mostly White detractors in the beginning. However, with the death of George Floyd after Derick Chauvin knelt on his knee for more than eight minutes prompted the NFL, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and various collegiate sports associations to side with Kaepernick and his fellow protestors and more athletes are taking a knee. The sports leagues now understand that police brutality is a valid issue and that as celebrity athletes, they have a responsibility to use their platform to bring this issue to the forefront.
Many people will disagree with this sentiment. They will say that athletes are paid to play a sport and that they hold no place in the political arena. However, Kaepernick and others like him are not the first to use their fame to enter the political debates. Regan was an actor who later became President of the United States. Many past US Presidents were actors, athletes, or wealthy/ famous before becoming a politician. This fact does not imply that Kaepernick or his supporters are becoming politicians. On the contrary, it simply means that they are using their voices with larger stages to call a systemic problem to the forefront. Their proponents and opponents are making the debate political.
Some people have claimed that without prior criminal acts, these men and women of color would not be in the position to be killed by police. For instance, George Floyd was being accused of passing counterfeit bills, and others killed in police custody had also broken the law. The protests, however, are not about eliminating punishment. The Constitution that the flag represents explicitly states that cruel and unusual punishment should not be deployed by officers.
In the US, death is not a typical punishment for counterfeiting.
Additionally, Breonna Taylor and others like her have been killed while doing nothing. In Taylor’s case, she was shot while sleeping because police entered the wrong home. Botham Jean was killed while sleeping because an inebriated officer couldn’t find her own home. These deaths are an outrage. Kaepernick and his fellow athletes are calling attention to these deaths.
Whether or not you agree with the Black Lives Matter movement is irrelevant. More needs to be done to support the equality amongst races. Before you think that more Whites are innocently killed by police than Blacks each year, consider that proportionally, this ratio is grossly disproportionate. Whites make up nearly three-quarters of the US population but only about half of the people killed by police.
Conversely, Blacks make up just under fifteen percent of the population, but nearly one-third of those killed by police. Statistics like these are utterly disproportionate. Taking a knee is not about sports or Hollywood. It is entirely about stopping systemic racism.