Since we were tiny tots with fat hands, chubby cheeks, curious minds, babbling mouths, and unstoppable feet, an older individual, or several, told us to shoot for the stars. They reminded us, to the point of worn-out words, to be true to who we are, do what we please, follow the path in which we aim, do not listen to others who tell us we can’t, and to fight for what we believe in.
Maybe the older individual was a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, uncle, or other family member. Maybe it was a teacher, a next door neighbor, or someone you idolize. It might have even been a doctor with a good listening ear.
Whoever it was, life proved that some of us had truly listened, the advice knowing no bounds as various folks with different aspirations soaked it all in. They are entrepreneurs, technology geniuses, artists, writers, movie directors, creators and leaders of powerful movements.
They are also athletes.
Truthfully, I am not 100% football fluent. There is still much of the language I do not know, such as players numbers or team stats. But with a father who watches the sport often, you kind of catch on to what’s happening, whether consciously or subconsciously. With social media, it is difficult to avoid the most current of athletic headlines, from football to basketball. Like LeSean McCoy’s domestic violence allegations or LeBron James signing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
I was, however, intelligent enough to recognize the backlash and distinct divide that was happening from field to television screen. Or field to stadium seat. Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, felt injustice, inequality, and did something about it.
He took a knee during the national anthem while many believed he should have stood alongside his team members.
Months progressed with this heated debate, catching the attention from Donald Trump. Football coaches were torn too, presented with the decision to force all team members to stand or remain in the locker room until the anthem subsides.
It’s a choice, near requirement to follow pursuit in one way or the other.
Nonetheless, it is a choice no one thought we’d ever have to make. A topic we thought we would never come to discuss, argue, and rant about.
But, here we are.
The unpredictable has arrived, suitcases and all, bags packed to the brim, here to stay for a while.
And now another question poses as to whether or not the national anthem should be televised, circumventing more backlash of seeing (encouraging?) more kneelers.
You see, this is America. America is meant to resemble and indicate freedom, but instead injustice eclipses all. As Americans, we have failed and we have triumphed. Everyone living on this piece of land has experience a horrible series of events. Those living in other locations of the world have witnessed and endured similar experiences. No matter our place of birth, current residence, skin color, culture, religion, we have our own histories and stories that have made us who we are today. Sometimes it is the most unspeakable or overshadowed of things. It can also be the types of things very few people can relate to. But nonetheless, they have happened.
It is because of that, the injustice many face for darker pigment or being a part of a culture or religion, that Kaepernick took a knee. He took a knee for himself. He took a knee for others. It was a personal protest. It was an inclusive action. He represented the population of people who lack a voice for one reason or another.
Topics like these trend fast and become controversial quick. It is a sensitive time. And the up-roar was real with taking a knee. To some it was considered disrespectful to avoid standing, and did not send respectful tribute and honor to veterans and those currently in service. But take a stroll through Twitter, typing Nike Veterans into the search bar, and I guarantee you will see tweets of veterans who are in support of kneeling as well as the endorsement.
Before Nike’s announcement, the controversy had died down. It was when Colin Kaepernick’s face was released with a motivational message and the logo and motto of Nike, in which we all know too well. The image was a close-up of the quarterback and the hard-hitting statement, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
It is two sentences, nine words, seventeen syllables that hang heavy without mentioning the standing vs. kneeling debate. Instead, it sets fire to our beliefs, a push, a gentle shove to make things happen. To initiate and begin the domino effect. To be bigger than the sacrifice.
Without a doubt, Kaepernick is the epitome of that quote. He felt, he believed, he sacrificed. He did not step or back down. He did not allow opinions and filthy language to control the movement or to relinquish from the path he planned to pave. He did not allow anyone or anything to dictate his actions and manipulate what he should and should not believe in.
The word sacrifice sounds so intense, but there is a spectrum to the word. Sacrificing can mean giving up or putting something on the line that is a small feat or something truly massive. To say that Kaepernick did not necessarily sacrifice anything might be inaccurate.
Is he still wealthy? Of course!
Did this “stunt” drain his pockets into poverty? Absolutely not!
But something, nonetheless, was still sacrificed. He put his football career on the line. He gave up his quarterback status. He did sacrifice. Even if he did not have a future in the NFL, Kaepernick still spent his remaining games fighting for equality.
Still, the political and patriotic barrier progressed. Expectedly, Twitter quickly became a volcano of people supporting or hating on Nike. Shoes were burned and socks were cut in order to boycott and retaliate. Yet, the purchases were already made, not affecting the brand. Post announcement, sales escalated.
Nike is still here.
Nike will continue to be here.
Buried within the negative tweets were positive ones, thankfully. The photo was retweeted thousands of times with messages full of thanks and congratulations. Celebrities of all kind took to Instagram to congratulate and honor this step in sports, brand, and deserved justice.
While up for debate, I support Colin Kaepernick and his protest. I support him taking a knee. On Nike’s part, it’s a sheer brilliant marketing move that consisted of perfect timing.
Whether kneeling is something you support or not, there is one part of the issue in which we all cannot deny. This protest was one simple body movement. It was intimate, it was silent, it did not harm or injure anyone. He protested in the most calm, innocent way possible while being on a field that is meant to signify freedom as the national anthem is performed across it. Yet, if kneeling is frowned upon and banned, what part of that is true freedom?
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”