Stephanie Daniels, Features Editor
As we celebrate Black History Month, stories of those who have come before us ring throughout society. Stories of triumphs, struggles and successes are told and shared. It is a common theme to reflect on the events and strides made in the past, with countless scenarios of bravery and an undying will to see a future beyond the current reality.
We don’t have to look far for these examples, the people we look up to and commemorate share the same cities and neighborhoods as us. Black history is everywhere, it is in what we eat, what we wear, what we use. But black history isn’t just the past, yet the present. One person that has arguably had an impact on the history of black people in our generation is Colin Kaepernick.
If you haven’t heard the story of Kaepernick, you have truly missed out on an extraordinary act of both selflessness and heroism. Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, took a knee during the national anthem at a game in August 2016, protesting the ever-growing police brutality in America. Waves of fans began to boo him and continued to show their distaste at games following. Two with a sign saying “You’re an American. Start acting like one.” This moment sparked national attention and split the public into two. Those who supported him and his plight, and those who did not.
Kaepernick’s stance was that of a unique, yet unfortunately unsurprising nature. Following his taking a knee, the outrage began to pour from every area of media. Newscasters painted him as an unruly citizen with a blatant disrespect for veterans, and some of society left appalled at how he chose to protest for his people and their treatment.
But, what’s most interesting about Kaepernick’s story is the blatant blackballing that occurred afterward within the NFL. His career turned from budding and ever-rising to that of a free agent with no team willing to sign him. Now this is extremely surprising, considering his stats as a quarterback in the National Football League, and the fact that he was arguably one of the best in the league. Now why would someone of that caliber of performance and leadership would be fighting unemployment? It couldn’t be because he took a stance for a group of people with which he himself is a part. It couldn’t be because the plight that he protested is unsupported.
Unfortunately, Kaepernick’s circumstances were all too real and true for the black community. Anytime an individual of color takes a stance against the systemic racism that runs through the very social structures and institutions we take part in, they are blackballed or even worse, killed.
Just recently, news has come out about the grievance he filed against the NFL in 2017 after not being picked up at the end of the prior season, forcing him into free agency. Mark Geragos, an attorney for Kaepernick tweeted, “[the] parties have decided to resolve their pending grievances.” Hopefully this is a glimmer of hope for him, but a potential settlement doesn’t serve to solve the bigger issue at hand. The issue that even if you are an NFL superstar who deems it necessary to be the voice for your people, you can still be exiled for having the audacity to use it.