And “Patriots” everywhere cry outrage!!
Almost 13 years after Corporal (award posthumously) Pat Tillman was killed in action by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Another NFL player has chosen to take a stand and fight to make our country better, safer and more just for millions of Americans. Coincidentally, the barrage of friendly fire aimed at Colin Kaepernick has been a constant onslaught of racial slander and unprecedented salvos unleashed in his direction even by our commander in chief. #Shame
Former Arizona Cardinals strong safety, Pat Tillman, enlisted in the U.S. Army with his brother just months after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Foregoing a $3.6M contract to instead fight the war on terrorism. Just after nightfall on April 22, 2004, Tillman and his platoon engaged in a firefight that resulted in him being killed in action by friendly fire. His unfortunate death elevated his image from beloved Patriot to true American Hero. Tillman’s actions were selfless, brave and admirable; not debatable. But when compared to Colin Kaepernick’s silent stance to protest the hundreds of killings of black Americans by police officers and the injustices of systematic inequalities for minorities, the polarizing quarterback has the edge in courage. I am certain Kap would disagree with this statement, like many of you will. But this IS an opinion piece, so…
When choosing to act in alignment with your convictions even in the face of criticism, notoriety and financial ruin, what can be more courageous than what Colin Kaepernick endured this past NFL season? While Tillman’s enlistment in the Army drew fanfare, Kaepernick’s kneeling, for less than five minutes per game, ignited the wrath of white nationalists that attempted to shame him for exercising his First Amendment right. The backlash and public outrage that swept the nation was fiery, as thousands of Americans burned his jersey, called for his termination, boycotted the 49ers organization as well as the NFL, and even sent him death threats.
It is true that Kaepernick did not take up arms to fight America’s xenophobic war on Islam. Kaepernick’s calling was not one of carrying out the agenda of men that have little regard for soldiers until they are forced to conduct a memorial for the fallen. Colin has taken a more dangerous path. His path has exposed one of the ugly truths of America and ignited the vitriol of a Trump empowered racist citizenry that vehemently defends historically racist, oppressive organizations, such as law enforcement.
Let’s not be fooled, this was not a publicity stunt or an opportunistic means to financially capitalize on a polarizing subject. Quite the opposite, actually. As history has taught us, black athletes taking political stances live through hell and are paid homage in hindsight. Muhammad Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos’ experiences are proof enough. Kap knew the risk. The 29-year-old veteran quarterback put his money where his mouth is. He pledged to donate $1M plus proceeds of his jersey sales to various organizations that work in oppressed neighborhoods. Kaepernick upped the ante by fully funding Know Your Rights Camp (KYRC). A Bay Area based youth program to raise awareness through education, self-empowerment, financial literacy, how to properly interact with law enforcement, and other life skills; completely avoiding sports.
During the 49ers bye week last season, the afro’d play caller spent his off time conducting the first event of KYRC in Oakland. During the playoffs in January of this year, he organized an event in New York City at the Audubon Ballroom, the site of Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination. And over the weekend, Kaepernick worked with Turkish Airlines to secure a 60 ton cargo plane to fly food and water to a drought stricken Somalia. And as of writing this piece the gofundme for Somalian aid has exceeded their $2M goal in less than FOUR DAYS! You better believe that Colin is showing up for the global change!
His boots are on the ground and he is on front lines for under-served communities across the country. If you think you know Colin, think again. In a few short months he has inspired a younger generation to become more engaged in social activism. He has done so without making press releases or vying for media attention. There is a truth to this passion and it does not seem to be waning any time soon.
We might never know the burden of juggling activism and athletics, two contrasting worlds in which machinations beyond his control oppose his success. In public, Kaepernick is confidently calm, with an easy smile and a welcoming demeanor. He has yet to respond to the critics, pundits and media bashing. His good works speak volumes. In a time in which America needs someone to cheer for, he has silently carved out a folk hero image and given this generation a new face of change!
His sitting became a protest, that turned into a frenzy, morphed into a sensation, became a mission and blossomed into a movement. His courage and conviction created a nationwide and international awakening and conversation about racial dynamics between the black community and the order of the blue.
I don’t know what is more egregious three shots to the head from a fellow soldier or an active populace led by POTUS attempting to silence a man fighting for injustice. Maybe there is no clear-cut answer. But as everyday passes and as lives are being saved, Colin is using his resources and reach not for self promotion or grandstanding but to leave the world in a better place. In doing so, he is positioning himself to earn a Nobel Peace prize. #Manifesting #KaepernickPeacePrize2018