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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

What do you stand for?

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Sep 14, 2018

If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

Yes, that is a line from Tony Award winning Broadway musical “Hamilton.” But it was also the first I thought of when I saw the new Nike ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The ad, for those who haven’t seen, is a black and white image of Kaepernick with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad is part of a campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It.”

In late August of 2016, as crowds and players rose to stand during the national anthem during the San Francisco 49ers preseason game, Kaepernick stayed seated on the bench.

I’ll be honest, when I saw Kaepernick on the bench, my first thoughts weren’t great. Seeing him sitting during the national anthem was jarring and it felt rude. But, it’s a protest; it’s not supposed to give you the warm and fuzzier.

It was at the suggestion of former Seahawks player Nate Boyer, an Army Green Beret, that Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem.

As a cheerleader, when one of the football players were hurt during a game, we knelt with the team until the player got back up. Soldiers kneel in front of a fallen comrade. Kaepernick sees that a significant portion of America’s population is hurting and so he’s taken a knee.

In an Aug. 28, 2016 article from CNN, Kaepernick stated, “I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

And they did. In 2017 Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers to become a free agent. In November 2017 he filed a grievance lawsuit alleging he was not being signed due to his activism.

Kaepernick was, and still is, protesting social injustice, specifically the deaths of African-Americans by police.

According to the Washington Post, as of Aug. 30, 707 people have been shot and killed by police in 2018 across the United States. Of that, 128 have been black. And while that number may not seem alarming, a little context helps put that number in perspective. According to a 2015 analysis by the Guardian, racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the U.S. population. However, 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police were minorities.

I want to take a moment here, because I think it’s important, to say that you can support someone and still be able to say there’s an issue. My dad was a first responder and firefighter. I remember that feeling I’d have every time the sirens would go off and he would go grab his gear. You worry incessantly. All I wanted was for my dad to come home and for him to have helped someone. And that’s how I feel about our law enforcement officials. I think by and large they are good, decent people that are trying to do the best for their community and keep them safe. I truly believe that, especially our local law enforcement. They are men and women who put their personal safety on the line every single day in order to help others. That is amazing. But I can also look at the statistics and see there is a disparity and an increase of fatal force being used when it comes to minorities.

Kaepernick’s protest sparked outrage across the country. I’ve heard his protest called un-American and that football is not the time nor the place for political discourse. So my question is when? When is it “OK” to protest? Because it’s not when Black Lives Matters takes to the streets, apparently. It’s not after another shooting. When?

Earlier this week, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (yes, the pro wrestler) came out in support of Kaepernick and the Nike ad.

“I fully support him. That’s why I served my country. So that you have the freedom to protest. ... I don’t have to agree with him, but I will still respect his right to (protest).”

There was another comment Ventura made that stuck me, “If we don’t like protesting, what’s next?”

Indeed, if we restrict protesting, what is next? How would we incite change? Because the Civil Rights Act would not have come to pass without protesting.

And just a little side note, for those who are so outraged with Nike for collaborating with Kaepernick, maybe instead of burning your apparel, donate it. You can be mad at a company. You can boycott and protest and vow to never purchase anything from them ever again. But with that stuff you’ve already spent your money on, instead of wasting it maybe help someone. I mean, what’s more American than helping someone in need?

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