Public Politics

Public Politics

Sergio Romero, Writer

“Vote”, “Education Reform”, “How Many More”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Breonna Taylor”, and many more of these messages are what you might see on the back of NBA and WNBA players’ jerseys or NFL players’ helmets when you turn on the TVBlack Lives Matter is a movement that has been in the media as of late and is something we haven’t seen before. In the past, not many athletes would speak about these issues whether it be while addressing the media, going to protests, or protesting before games. However, the times are changing and some of the world’s biggest and most popular athletes are speaking out about the injustices that are occurring in this country.  

It all started when before a preseason game in 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem because of the police brutality in the US. This caused an uproar around the country with people saying he should “respect the flag” or “he should leave if he doesn’t like it”. Even President Donald Trump said he should be “fired and he doesn’t deserve a job. Kaepernick, along with a couple other players, did this throughout the entire 2016-2017 NFL season while still receiving backlash from people around the country. After the season, the 49ers, under new coach Kyle Shanahan, chose not to bring Kaepernick back for the next season. Kaepernick was then a free agent and could choose which team he wanted to go to. Unfortunately, he was not given an offer as teams said he would be a “distraction” to the team and remains unsigned today. 

So, why do I bring up Kaepernick? It’s because Kaepernick essentially paved a way for athletes today to peacefully protest and use their platform to speak out on issues in this country. When the NBA and WNBA restarted the seasons, they could put a message on the back of their jerseys to promote whatever issue they wanted to.  There were also many players kneeling for the national anthem across all sports teams and leagues in America. 

 In light of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, NBA, MLB, WNBA, MLS, NHL, and other sports leagues around the country chose boycott games (not play them) for a short period of time. A lot of NFL teams also didn’t practice and a few days later, they had many players speak out after practice to convey their message. On the first game of the 2020-2021 NFL season, the Houston Texans and defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs players and coaches from both teams locked arms in the middle of the field in a moment of unity a few moments before kickoff. Many football players that Saturday and Sunday kneeled during the anthem or held their fist in the air.  

It’s ironic that athletes kneeling during the anthem or speaking out about a public issue was deemed a “distraction” and not during the right time or place because now owners and league commissioners are encouraging and supporting it. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell who was even accused of “blackballing” Kaepernick, has said, “We should have listened to him”.