NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick received GQ’s Citizen of the Year award on Monday for his controversial kneel during the National Anthem — an act of disapproval of institutionalized racism and police brutality in the US.
Kaepernick receiving this award shows that voicing one’s opinion, whether the criticism is received well or not, is valid and might send vibrations around the nation that could aid in the fight for equality.
Kaepernick’s critics argue that his political views should stay away from the field. There’s no foundation to that critique, as one’s professional career should not strip them of their right to protest.
NFL players may have millions of people watching them play, but this isn’t an excuse to strip them of their First Amendment rights. If anything, it creates an amazing platform for them to get a message across.
Last August, Kaepernick first ignited a revolt against ongoing racial discrimination and the police brutality across the nation by sitting on the bench rather than standing during the national anthem.
He started kneeling so he could continue his protest without taking away from the men and women who fight for the US.
“When there’s significant change, and I feel like that flag represents who it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to, I’ll stand,” said Kaepernick in a press conference Aug. 2017.
Players aren’t just pawns that entertain audiences. These players are people with viewpoints, opinions and most importantly, experiences they wish to share.
Kaepernick said that along with his own experience dealing with racial injustices, he actively advocates for people of color whose voices go unheard.
The NFL platform shouldn’t be shunning and silencing players that are attempting to change something very problematic in the world, it should help promote this message.
There is no legitimate reason to condemn players because they use their platforms to promote equality. Removing the voices of these players erases their identity as well as the people they are attempting to speak for.
Kaepernick moved from solely being a football player, to making a national movement with one simple action.
An influx of support across the NFL rose during the month of September with numerous players and even entire teams protesting in support of Kaepernick and his ideals. There were 16 acts of active player protest before NFL games.
Obviously, the protests are working as they have garnered national attention. NFL players led by Kaepernick have garnered the attention of the oppressors and flustered them into anger and frustration-filled social media posts.
Kaepernick is paving the way for entertainers with huge audiences to lead successful protests. It is thrilling to see a player of his magnitude use his platform to strike back against the great deal of adversity his community has faced.
“I can’t look in the mirror and see other people dying on the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and say ‘I can live with myself’ because I can’t if I just watch,” Kaepernick said in a press conference.
Professional players should be encouraged to use their platform to express themselves politically. If there’s an issue close to their hearts, then it will probably resonate with their fans and viewers.
GQ recognizing Kaepernick with the Citizen of the Year award shows society that it’s possible to effect change, even if it’s on one knee.