Kaepernick Protest Illuminates Power of NFL’s Platform

Colin Kaepernick, Now Gracing The Cover of Time Magazine, Proves The Power of the NFL’s Platform

Whether you agree with the protest or not, it is important to recognize the significance of this moment in history. The NFL is a powerful bully pulpit.

This week’s Time Magazine cover will be graced by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and adorned with the words: “The Perilous Fight: National anthem protests led by Colin Kaepernick are fueling a debate about privilege, pride and patriotism.

The importance of what Colin Kaepernick has done cannot be understated: he has singlehandedly found a way to use his position to spark a overdue national dialogue on race relations in the United States. Because Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee, millions of people around the world are now discussing issues of institutional racism and police brutality that had been swept under the rug for far too long.

The impact of Kaepernick’s protest, and thus the power of the NFL bully pulpit, has not gone unnoticed. As a result, many NFL owners have chosen to take a side: either directly or by attempting to influence their players.

Sep 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; A few Miami Dolphins take a knee during the opening ceremonies before the start of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In Miami, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is one of the few owners who have actively taken a stance in support of Kaepernick’s cause. The Dolphins had the most players protest on NFL opening day (4), and that is not a coincidence. Last year, Ross and the Dolphins founded a charity called ‘RISE,’ an organization dedicated to using the power of sports to advance race relations. ‘RISE’ has established partnerships with all four major leagues and has all four commissioners on it’s Board of Directors.

In contrast, the Carolina Panthers are taking a different approach. Allegedly, the Panthers ownership hired ex-GOP consultant Frank Luntz to advise their players on issues related to race. Luntz is supposedly responsible for Cam Newton‘s revised stance on racial issues. Unfortunately, this strategy largely backfired and led to statements by Newton that were largely seen as disingenuous.

Outside of the NFL, the impact of Colin Kaepernick’s protest has reverberated just as loudly. High school students around the country are now taking a knee during the national anthem. Athletes in other sports, such as professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe, are also joining Kaepernick in solidarity.

On the protest, President Barack Obama stated:

[Kaepernick] “cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.”

When it comes to speaking out, President Obama offered:

“There are a lot of ways you can do it. As a general matter, when it comes to the flag and the national anthem and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform and those who fought for us — that is a tough thing for them to get past to then hear what his deeper concerns are.”

It is extremely significant whenever you are able to get the President of the United States to comment on an issue, whether you are a politician, an artist or an athlete. Remember: Kaepernick’s actions helped to bring about this conversation not from his play on the field, but because of an action he took inches away from it.

It takes a special kind of courage to do what Colin Kaepernick has done. Unfortunately, the death threats he faces on a daily basis not only prove that, but show how powerful his message is.

When it comes to racial justice in this country, like so many of the complex issues we face, there is much work to be done. Regardless of stance, creating a national dialogue and forcing people to inform themselves on the issue only leads to a more educated American populace– and that is a very, very good thing.

This is also a markedly important moment in the history of football. An NFL player has created a stronger conversation than most figureheads are capable; this needs to be taken in the context that the National Football League has recently been faced with numerous threat’s to its existence.

From concussions to Deflategate, and from it’s issues with domestic violence to it’s affiliation with daily fantasy sports, the NFL has withstood a firestorm of problems that would cripple most companies. The NFL not only survived these challenges, but is now a key player in a political conversation only months away from a Presidential election.

How long Kaepernick’s protest continues remains to be seen. Kaepernick’s courage has not only inspired a movement, but shows what power can come with being a National Football League player .

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