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The Colin Kaepernick Effect

Nathan Shepherd
Lesley Meek
English 102
November 12, 2016
Colin Kaepernick Effect

On August 14th, 2016 Colin Kaepernick sat down during the National Anthem at a pre-season NFL game. However, it was not until the third pre-season game, on August 26th, when he gained the attention of the media and created quite a stir throughout the nation with his protest. Colin Kaepernick claims that he was kneeling/sitting during the National Anthem to protest what he says are "racist police practices and behavior" ("Colin Kaepernick Continues Kneeling protest ahead of 49ers opener"). Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem has impacted the actions and words of many public figures in regards to police brutality and racial tension in our nation. Many times Colin's protest is presented but not in conjunction with the history of racial tension and police relations with African Americans. It is important to bring these two topics together in order to fully understand what the protest is all about and why it's such a "hot button" issue. One would be remiss to look just at Colin Kaepernick's protest alone and not put it in full context. It is also important, no matter how a person feels about the subject, to look at how it has made a large impact on so many.

So who is this Colin Kaepernick that has made such a large impact with these protests? Colin Kaepernick, who is African American, was adopted by caucasian parents who tried to raise him with an understanding of his racial background. His mother tried to help him embrace his racial background and the culture that surrounds it. When entering the NFL Colin garnered attention not just for his play on the field but his look and his apparent lack of leadership qualities according to certain sports commentators. He drew criticism, primarily from sports commentators, who did not seem to think he fit the mold of a NFL quarterback. This criticism did not seem to hold him back from succeeding quickly on the field in that he helped bring his team to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, as is the case for most, as quickly as he rose in success he then fell. Blaine Gabbert replaced Colin Kaepernick as the starter of the San Francisco 49ers. The sudden rise and fall in a career coupled with the criticism he faced coming into the NFL along with his unique upbringing begin to give a person more insight into who Colin Kaepernick is.

Just because Colin was not the starter for the team did not keep him from the spotlight. He was spotted wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs and of course his protest during the National Anthem both happening this year, 2016. He has also worn a t-shirt depicting Fidel Castro during a press conference which also caused controversy. Whether people agree with this protest or not there is no denying that it has impacted the conversation and actions of many prominent figures and the majority of people in our nation. Again, many times, when Colin Kaepernick's protest is discussed, the history of police brutality and racial tension is not discussed.

Although one can spend many hours writing many pages about police relations with African Americans and racial tensions that exist in our nation we will take a brief look into this. The United States has quite a history with racial conflict and police brutality that continues to this day. In recent history the United States went through a turbulent time during the 1960's where there was a strong civil rights movement. The struggle in the 1960's was against segregation and racism throughout the nation. Law enforcement was called upon to uphold segregation laws, control protests and at times use force to bring violent riots to a halt. At times the police acted to uphold the at that time, current law (even though a majority of people would disagree with segregation laws and they would eventually be abolished). Unfortunately, many times police would use unnecessary force and use their authority to cause harm to African Americans. Stories and personal accounts of these encounters have been passed down to the next generation of African Americans. These cases would continue even to present day.

Statistics and recent events show that since the tumultuous 1960's there are still issues with African American's dealings with police officers, however the cause cannot necessarily be directly linked with racism within law enforcement. The police shootings of Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald and deadly incidents in places like Ferguson, Mo. and North Charleston, Sc., has caused racial tension in our nation to run high. "Although African-American males account for only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 40 percent - or 37 - of the 90 unarmed men shot to death by police, The Post reported" (Racial Conflict). This has caused the Black Lives Matter movement to emerge as a response to police shootings of African Americans. Also, music and more specifically rap has a long history of expressing distrust and anger towards police officers. It is important to note that of the fatal shootings of unarmed men mentioned above, "fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white officers accounted for less than 4 percent of such events" (Racial Conflict). Although one shooting of an unarmed African American by a white officer would be considered too much it is not an "epidemic" as some would think according to these statistics.

With our nation's history with racial conflict and the recent events of African American's deaths at the hands of police officers it is no wonder why Colin Kaepernick's protest has struck a cord. The protest has made a large impact, not just with other NFL players, but also with other professional athletes. First, there have been many professional athletes that have expressed their support of Kaepernick's protest. Professional athletes have stated how they agree that there is a problem with how police officers have handled recent violent incidents and they acknowledge the racial divide in our country. It is easy to see how Colin's protest and other athletes support has spread not just through the NFL but also in many other sports leagues. Some athletes have joined Kaepernick in sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem while others have held their fists up as a sign of "black pride". Even woman's soccer player Megan Rapinoe has chosen to kneel in protest not necessarily for the same reasons as Colin but inspired by his actions none the less. Many of the athletes that support Kaepernick do so through words while not many have joined him in deed. However, some have met with law enforcement officers to better understand their job or have given money to groups that agree with the sentiments of Kaepernick that there is a problem with police brutality.

Of course with any controversial issue not all reactions to Colin's protest have been positive as athletes both current and retired have made it clear they do not agree with the protest. Some athletes see Kaepernick's protest as unpatriotic, divisive and harmful to any progress being made. Because Colin and other athlete's protests cause such a commotion, gaining a lot of attention, it may appear to some that they are in the majority. However, the amount of athletes that choose to stand and not join in the protest far outweigh those who do. Many athletes don't necessarily take issue with why Colin Kaepernick is protesting but mainly how he is protesting. Some athletes have family and friends that have served in the military and bring up the fact that the National Anthem is a time to respect those who have served. This protest has caused some athletes to take action doing things like linking arms during The National Anthem to show unity or inviting law enforcement to practices and honoring them at games. Some athletes have worn cleats or other equipment that depict patriotic symbols. Regardless of what side of the issue they stand Colin's protest has invoked action in many athletes across all sports.

It's not just athletes who have been impacted by these protests it goes beyond the athletes. The commissioner of the NFL has commented on these protests as it has started from the league he resides over. A statement from the NFL offices basically tried to avoid taking a stance on the subject encouraging players to stand during the National Anthem but also acknowledging they have the right to sit or kneel. Politicians have weighed in, even President Obama, showing the reach of the protests goes beyond sports. The protests were brought up several times by candidates running for president with all of them generally saying that Kaepernick has the right to protest but disagreeing with the way it is being done. The questions about the protests did not just stop at the protests themselves but moved on to the issue of police brutality and how to fix the law enforcement system. This was a regular topics in presidential debates and on campaign speeches. Along with politicians many actors and singers have also given their opinion on the subject offering support or criticism mainly through social media or in interviews.

The media has obviously covered this topic exploring every aspect of the protests. There are an abundance of articles, blogs and television coverage on the protests. The majority of news outlets have simply reported the facts of the protests but, as is the case with topics like this, some have expressed their opinion on the matter. Some outlets like an article on Slate is quotes saying "his quiet gesture was precision engineered to accomplish exactly what it's accomplished" (Colin Kaepernick's Protest is Working). On the other side of the issue you have an article that claims that Colin has the right to protest but has poor execution, calling for Colin to take action and do something about the issue rather than just protesting it. Colin seemed to respond to this criticism by donating money to organizations that work towards raising awareness to the issue of police brutality and to certain urban communities. Colin did receive some harsh criticism recently for not voting in the recent presidential elections causing many to question his sincerity. Many have weighed in on this subject matter showing that these protests have sparked a conversation with many public figures and media members.

What about the community of people that Colin Kaepernick is protesting, the law enforcement community? Police officers and officials have obviously taken offense to Colin Kaepernick and his anti-police rhetoric. Police have threatened to boycott the games that take place in San Francisco. Media outlets have asked police chief's and spokespersons their thoughts on these protests. While police spokespersons have said they do not agree with Colin's sentiments they will continue to "protect the rights of every person, even if we disagree with their positions" (Los Angeles Times). Videos have surfaced of police officers attempting to connect with members of the communities where a high population of African American's showing a push to build bridges between law enforcement and the communities they serve. While there have been deaths of unarmed citizen's at the hands of police officers there have also been deaths of police officers who have been killed by those who sought to "retaliate" against law enforcement. All of these incidents are tragic and it is no wonder why the decision to kneel during the National Anthem has caused very emotional reactions.

It's not just the public figures, in our nation, that have been effected by these protest but most of it's citizens. Most of Americans according to a "telephone survey found that 54 percent of American adults disapprove of the protests" (Americans Generally Disapprove of Players' Anthem Protests but Opinion Divided Along Racial Lines, Poll Finds). It is important however to note that even within these polls there is a strong racial divide that exists. Fans of football and those who aren't have gone to social media to support Colin's protest or oppose him. Some have even wished injury on the quarterback and others who protest. In other cases fans have booed Kaepernick or chanted "USA" at his games. It is probably not a stretch to say that most Americans have had discussions about Kaepernick's protests between family and friends. In some way or another these protests have infiltrated the lives of many Americans.

Whether a person agrees or disagrees with Colin Kaepernick's protest they have to admit that it has no doubt made a large impact on our nation. The words and actions of many, including public figures in our nation, have been effected by these protests. Any time there are these types of controversial actions it is important to be educated on the issue and know the background surrounding before jumping to any conclusions. This allows a person to be able to intelligently express their opinion and keep the conversation civil. This is the goal of this paper which is to present the entire picture for the reader. If we step back and look at Colin Kaepernick's protest it is hard to argue with the fact that the impact it has had on our nation is bringing about conversation about the issue of police brutality and racial conflict. Others have been moved to action in order to work towards resolution and healing. Whether Colin intended for it to happen, his choice to kneel or sit during the National Anthem can become positive if people can intelligently approach the subject, coming together in order to make a positive change.

There is no denying our nation has a history of racial conflict and there have been violent incidents of police brutality. Incidents between police that have resulted in deaths of unarmed citizens along with the killings of police officers our nation should have conversation on this issue. On top of all of this the recent presidential election and protests about the results show the United States seems to be very divided. These protest of Colin Kaepernick, whether someone agrees with them or not, should bring our nation to a place of productive conversation and answers that would bring ease to racial tension and police relations. The fact that this paper has been written along with many others proves that however disparagingly a person sees Colin Kaepernick's actions it can spark something beneficial. Did Colin Kaepernick have to protest during the National Anthem? No, but would a comment by Colin or a less controversial act have garnered so much attention and made such a large impact? Most likely it would not have but either way how it is responded to can bring about positive change if approached correctly.

Works Cited

Katel, Peter. "Racial Conflict." CQ Researcher
"Colin Kaepernick Continues Kneeling Protest Ahead of 49ers Opener." CNN. Cable News Network,
Maske, Mark. "Americans Generally Disapprove of Players' Anthem Protests but Opinion Divided Along Racial Lines, Poll Finds
Levin, Josh. "Colin Kaepernick's Protest is Working" Slate Magazine.
Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times
Sandritter, Mark. "All the Athletes Who Joined Kaepernick's National Anthem Protest."
Mazique, Brian. "Colin Kaepernick Has The Right To Protest, But His Execution Needs Work."

Nov 13, 2016   #2
Nate, the first problem that you have to address in your paper is the fact that the topic you have chosen to discuss casts a wide net in the discussion circle and as such, doesn't really allow you to properly discuss and develop the evidence presented in a manner that will properly impact the reader. I am almost sure that your teacher will allow you to narrow down the discussion to a few or just one effect that Kaepernick had on the sports viewing public. My advice is that you narrow down your thesis statement and opt to present a minimum of one and maximum of three effects that he had on the public. Keep it simple and easy to present. That way the essay narrows down the focus and has the capacity to fully develop your discussion points.

Next, when you present the history of Kolin's protest, you don't need to go all the way back to the 60's for the information. You can mention an overview of racial tension of the 60's but focus on the more recent issues related to police brutality instead. That way you discuss only the most related and relevant reasons in relation to his protest.

Finally, try not to continuously present new ideas as you discuss the topics in your essay. All of your discussion points should be presented in the first paragraph thesis statement, with a chronological discussion following it in the body of the essay. Therefore, to make this research more connected and less wide in scope, you need to stick to only your thesis statement provided discussions.