A few short weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick drew widespread criticism—even from some of us—for sitting during the national anthem. But now, he has almost single-handedly forced a national dialogue on police brutality/free speech/patriotism.
The thing is athletes in activism isn’t new. It’s just returned after a generation of fearful, endorsement- protecting athletes (I’m looking at you, Michael Jordan ) kept their “political” opinions to themselves. Case in point: Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Arthur Ashe and Jim Brown all used their athletic platform to speak against injustice and oppression.
But that was almost 50 years ago. And we’ve made so much progress, but there is still a looooong way to go. So I talked to three dads to get their take on Kaepernick, the upcoming election and the long road to change.
All three dads supported Kaepernick, because he’s started a national dialogue on the issue of police brutality and racial prejudice.
Now, every football Sunday, audiences are tuned in, not to just see the game, but to watch the pre-game actions of the athletes. Whereas the global discourse usually fades toward the back of the newspapers with every passing day of another incident, these athletes have kept the discussion front and center. And the discussion has been picked up across other platforms and with other high-profile figures, such as NBA coach Gregg Popovich and female soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
One dad explained that “It’s great we’re having these conversations outside of Black History Month because the challenges we’re facing are not limited to February.”
The Election: Is There Another Option?
I was talking to another one of the dad’s, when a scene from Brewster’s Millions (an old Richard Pryor film) came up. He explained that the movie reminded him of the 2016 election. See the clip below.
The dad saw the similarities between our current election and the fictional clip. In a climate where racial tensions are at a high, he discussed his disappointment with the available options on the horizon:
“Our country is in a make or break situation when you look at all the issues we are facing. On one end, we have Hillary who lies about a lot of things and has been inconsistent with her stances. On the other end, we have Trump who is wishy-washy and racist…and it’s just like ‘are these really our best candidates?’”
The Long Road to Change
When asked about the state of black men in America, two dads shared the same thought: we’ve got to do more than protest and march. Both pointed to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a model.
“The Black Lives Matter Movement is great, but we have to go further. I look to my hero, John Lewis; he’s still fighting the fight. But he started with training and registering people in Jim Crow Mississippi to vote. Now, he’s in Congress.”
This same dad went on to explain that the road to change is long and hard. We live in a microwave/Instagram society that wants everything now, but that’s not how change happens. So, he’s starting with educating his son and teaching him our history.
In Case, Kaepernick is Reading…
My hope is that Kaepernick won’t stop his activism with kneeling during the National Anthem. He’s already committed to donating one million dollars to under-served communities, that’s a great start. But what I really want is for him to follow the lead of Jim Brown and continue down the long road of change.
Jim Brown led a group of NFL players that started a credit union to promote economic empowerment in black communities. Then he started the Amer-I-Can Foundation to curb gang violence. After 25 years, the foundation has helped thousands and now operates in more than a dozen states.
Long term solutions like Jim Brown’s are what lead to long-term change. And I’m hoping that Kaepernick, and all of us, will take the long hard road in seeking solutions to the problems we face.
BMWK: Aside from voting and protesting, what other actions can we take to move our people down the long road of change?
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