Chat with the Chief: Taking a knee to take a stand

The NFL’s regular season just kicked off this past weekend and the on-field action is already being eclipsed by controversy.

San Fransisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to sit during the playing of the national anthem prior to multiple preseason games, and plans on continuing to do so in protest of institutional racism in the country.

Ever since that action, Kaepernick has faced ample backlash both from the press and through social media.

Yet, other pros have also demonstrated solidarity with his message. Several players on the Miami Dolphins took a knee during the anthem before kickoff on Sept. 11, and members of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs raised fists while standing for the playing of the anthem last Sunday.

Some high school football players have kneeled during the anthem and the trend has even spread to other sports with American soccer star and Olympic gold medalist Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the anthem before a recent match.

It’s clear that the quarterback’s message resonated with several of his fellow athletes, but many claimed that he was setting a bad example for children that may idolize him and attempt to emulate his behavior. In reality, Kaepernick is setting an excellent example.

Peacefully standing up, in a figurative sense in this case, against what one perceives to be an injustice should be celebrated. Kaepernick identified a social issue and used his First Amendment right to speak out against it on a grand stage.

Kaepernick is far from the first athlete to use a sporting arena or his athletic celebrity to preach a message.

Muhammed Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his Heavyweight Championship in 1967 after refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army for religious reasons and speaking out against the Vietnam War.

The following year, Tommie Smith and John Carlos—two African American sprinters—raised a fist in opposition of racial injustice from the winners’ platform while the national anthem played during the Mexico City Olympics.

These men later became known as activists and heroes, despite initially being vilified for their acts of peaceful protest. These are names that we remember to this day for their greatness in sport and activism beyond.

So what will define Kaepernick’s career? Throwing 56 touchdownsduring his five year career and playing in a Super Bowl, or serving as a catalyst for modern day activism in the world of sports?

Kaepernick and a growing list of athletes may not be standing during the anthem, but that’s not to say that they don’t stand for something.