So you've probably heard of the media buzz around Colin Kaepernick by now. If not, check out this article for more details. However, to give you a quick summary Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers' Quarterback who recently refused to stand for the national anthem at NFL football games. He was asked why he didn't and he mentioned the reason was due to the numerous injustices happening to minorities in America -- especially African Americans being shot and killed unjustly by police officers all over the US.
His principled stand while causing a lot of controversy is one that is rare today in a world where celebrities and athletes don't make headlines for principled stands, but for their personal lives and or scandals. Kaepernick is one athlete who is following in the likes of Muhammad Ali and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who took principled stands in using their celebrity status to address injustices happening in America. Muslims have much to learn from the recent stand Colin Kaepernick has taken in refusing to stand for the national anthem.
In recent times when racism, bigotry, hate, xenophobia, Islamophobia and police brutality have increased in America, Kaepernick's stand has given hope in a better America as he calls to America's conscience. We hope and pray other celebrities, athletes and leaders join in Kaepernick's call to justice.
Here are a few lessons Muslims can take from Colin Kaepernick and his stand:
1) Standing for Justice Isn't Always Popular
When we look into our own history the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) wasn't very popular in calling people to Islam and advocating for the rights of women, slaves, poor, and other oppressed individuals in the society he lived in. Not only that he (AS) spoke up for universal values and ethics of peace, justice, equality, compassion, mercy, environmentalism, unity and other values. His call made him a threat to the corrupt and the powerful in his time. Likewise Colin Kaepernick has become unpopular with much of America who sees Kaepernick's stance as unpatriotic and ungrateful.
2) Sacrifices Must Be Made for What You Believe
Colin Kaepernick made a huge risk for himself by refusing to stand for the national anthem. He risks the alienation and loss of support from sponsors, fans, teammates, and even the 49ers management. However, someone who knows what is right knows that sacrifice is needed to take principled and often unpopular stances.
On the authority of Abu Abbas Sahl Bin Sa'ad Al-Sa'idi (R.A.A.) who said: 'A man came to the Prophet (PBUH) and requested him: "Messenger of God (PBUH), tell me something by which I could win the love of The Almighty and the people." The Prophet told him, "Do not love the world, and The Almighty will love you; and do not have a longing for that which people have, and they will love you."' (Ibn-Majah)
3) Don't Take It Personally
We must realize when we speak up for justice and for what we believe that it is inevitable what we'll get haters and those who will seek to destroy our character and image publicly to encourage others to not listen or take your cause seriously. The same is being done to Colin Kaepernick and the same was done to many of the great changemakers of our history from the Prophets of Allah, to Dr. MLK Jr, to Muhammad Ali, and many others today who still are fighting for justice and noble causes. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was ridiculed, mocked and suppressed by the corrupt and powerful--yet he stuck to his message and ensured he was not the focal point, but the message and cause he was advocating for.
4) Action Based on Knowledge
Kaepernick when interviewed by journalist asked him why he was taking his stand. Kaepernick responded eloquently by talking about the injustices brought about through police brutality and discrimination against African Americans. Kaepernick most certainly did his research before taking his stand. Likewise we should take action based on knowledge and a strong understanding of our causes we care about---especially causes based on justice for oppressed individuals.
5) The Message, Not the Messenger
Unfortunately, due to media coverage journalists have focused primarily on Kaepernick, but not on the issues he is raising. Likewise, we must ensure that in our fight for justice or other noble causes that we don't get boxed in or unknowingly become the focus of our cause. Many times we may knowingly or unknowingly become obstacle to causes we care about by becoming the focal point. It's the message, not the messenger that is important.
When we study the seerah (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) he was the messenger, but had the early Muslims focus on the message not him. He was the leader, yet was humble enough to understand that he was rasul-Allah--the servant of Allah which we should all strive to be every moment of our lives. We must understand we are servants of Allah and learn to serve others.
6) Being With the People
One noble trait that Kaepernick has exemplified is that he is with the people and empathizes with them. Unfortunately many celebrities, athletes and leaders today are far removed and disconnected from the needs of the average person. Kaepernick is reminding celebrities, athletes, and leaders that they do in fact have a responsibility to utilize their status and influence for the betterment of the society in which they live.
This is a trait which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) exemplified by not placing himself above anyone nor being inaccessible to the people. He was with his community in the good and bad times and never sought status or power, but always worked to empower others around him.
7) Inspiring Others
We've seen recently that Kaepernick's jersey have increased in sales and has in fact become the best selling jersey according to the NFL. Many other athletes and individuals have become inspired by Kaepernick's stance and are following his example by kneeling during the national anthem at games.
I hope and pray we can all learn from Kaepernick's stance and embody the values of justice, equality, love, compassion, mercy and empathy for all.