Sport is defined as a competitive game. There will always be winners and losers. However, sometimes players may find themselves embroiled in controversy. Some will shy away from it, while others will not. The current back-up quarterback for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, is currently in the center of a firestorm – and he is handling it extremely well. My goal in this article is to discuss this matter, and share my views the entire situation.

This issue began during an NFL Pre-season game held on August 26, 2016, between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, in San Francisco. Prior to every game the U.S. National Anthem is blared over the PA system, and everyone associated with both teams, is expected to stand and show respect to the country. However, Kaepernick chose to take a stand……by sitting down. Since that day, he has been hailed a hero by many, for doing what he felt was right. But, on the other hand, he has also been vilified, because others perceive his action as a sign of disrespect.

What was Kaepernick standing up against? According to an interview done by NFL Media’s Steve Wyche, the quarterback refused “to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” In other words, he feels there is a racial divide in the United States. He is also a bi-racial man, and was adopted and raised by a white family. The NFL also released a statement indicating that players should stand for the anthem, but mentioned that it was not necessary. The U.S. Military applauded Colin for his actions and beliefs.

Many years ago, former Toronto Blue Jay, Carlos Delgado refused to participate in the singing of “God Bless America,” as he was against the Iraq war. As we all know, Muhammed Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War citing religious reasons, and not having any issue with the Vietnamese people. He too gained a great deal of respect for his stand, and for sticking by his religious beliefs. Again, others felt he was unpatriotic. Ali’s explanation was simple –“why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” Ali lost a great deal for making that decision – banned from boxing for three years, fined and imprisoned.

LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade, all current NBA players, opened up the 2016 ESPY Awards in July with a plea to end gun violence in America. These athletes are wealthy and famous, but instead of using their status for selfish reasons, they choose to do the right thing, despite the backlash that could occur.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Kaepernick made the choice to sit for the “Star Spangled Banner,” and he should not be vilified for his decision. He will continue to make these kinds of stands until changes occur, and equality among all people is achieved. I am almost sure that what Kaepernick did, will be a main topic of conversation throughout the NFL regular season.

Colin Kaepernick should be commended for standing up for what he feels is right. The same can also be said for other athletes. I would stand up for the anthem, because it is the right thing to do, but I completely understand why Colin did what he did, and why he will continue to do so. He wants change. But he, along with the other athletes cannot be the only ones who stand up for people of color. They cannot be the only ones to talk about putting an end to gun violence. It is the job of everyone else in society to band together and do what is necessary to eradicate all the atrocities in the world.

Azeem Kayum

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