Football is a game that has been coined to reflect America’s national identity as a transformative sport. A sport that has propelled members to activate a strong work ethic and perseverance while enduring physiological and psychological challenges both on and off the field. For many Americans, these challenges have symbolically portrayed the strength of the nation, which is one of determination, heroism, and freedom.
In August of 2016, the San Francisco 49ers quaterback, Colin Kaepernick, would exercise this freedom by kneeling down in a silent protest to advocate for people of color in America who have for centuries fought against the plight of oppression. More specifically, Kaepernick’s advocacy would serve as a stand against racist policing that has resulted in the homicides of people of color such as Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and more recently Jordan Edwards.
Kaepernick’s display of free agency would be indicative of the ideals of heroism and freedom that spectators profess football represents. However, with the shoe on a different foot, this free agency cost Kaepernick the opportunity to re-establish his contract with The National Football League (NFL) on April 29, 2017.
Many questions have grown out of the NFL’s actions, leading parties following this story to question the criteria for redrafting Kaepernick. These actions were of major concern, especially as Kaepernick is known as a strong quarterback player who has scored numerous touchdowns for his team.
This has left reporters, in support of Kaepernick’s actions, to liken the NFL’s decision to the traditional silencing of Black activists speaking out against oppression.
In addition to reporter feedback, former president—Barack Obama—has suggested this act was merely an exercise of Kaepernick’s constitutional right. And as Kaepernick would reiterate in a later discussion, his intention was not to stand against America but rather to raise awareness for people of color.
Since this game, Kaepernick has announced a plan to donate to $1 million to charitable initiatives focused on racial issues. Kaepernick has held true to this promise by donating to organizations like Meals on Wheels that provided meals for Somali citizens after Trump rescinded major funding, among his work with his organization Know Your Rights Camp, and many other initiatives.
One of Kaepernick’s greatest acts of kindness has been his work with 100 Suits, a NYC based organization that aims to provide formerly incarcerated men with better opportunities for stable employment and self-empowerment. 100 Suits founder, Kevin Livingston, shared that “I went on air with Nessa of NYC’s Hot 97 and she introduced our organization to Kaepernick some time last year. They called me last Saturday and shared that they wanted to stop by.”
That day Kaepernick gave away multiple suits to formerly incarcerated men in need. Livingston shared that:
“Due to Kaepernick’s act of kindness, we put a suit on a parolee who came home 8-hours ago that just did almost 10 years. The parolee literally put his suit jacket on over his prison suit... Kaepernick accepted our Southeast Queens, NY community and that makes him hero to me. His contributions have served as a catalyst for me to take a stand for Kaepernick.”
Although, public opinion has been divided on Kaepernick’s actions, he has continued to serve as a social activist for people of color; an activist that is speaking out and acting with fortitude against the injustices that people of color face across America. While Kaepernick has remained undrafted, numerous sources highlight that several men who have been accused of physical or sexual assault have been drafted.
To speak out against this injustice, Livingston is now embarking on an initiative of his own to organize a protest in solidarity for Colin Kaepernick, #IStandforColin. On May 24, 2017, Livingston is spearheading a movement that has snowballed to receive major press coverage across the nation. The 100 Suits founder and many activists aim to stand outside NFL headquarters on the fourth Wednesday of May at 5:00 pm to advocate for unsigned Kaepernick.
To learn more about this movement click here.