Distraction is highly frowned upon in sports.
When an athlete loses focus or attracts attention outside of their sport or team-- it can cost an athlete a game-- or even their career.
But can distraction in sports serve as good for the right reasons?
Colin Kaepernick has become the NFL's most-talked about player this football season. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand during the national anthem during a pre-season game Aug. 27, in Santa Clara.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
His decision erupted in controversy-- many called the move 'un-American' and 'disrespectful' to the nation's flag. Other NFL players such as Kaepernick's former teammate, Minnesota Viking's Alex Boone, and New York Giants' Victor Cruz, also disagreed with his decision to protest.
Kaepernick has since started taking a knee at games during the national anthem, in what he said is a sign of respect for military service members, and has argued he is not un-American. He said the protest isn't meant to insult members of the military, according to ABC News.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said of the criticism. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up.”
Kaepernick has also said he'd donate $1 million to help groups affected by the issue he's trying spotlight. The 49ers followed suit, announcing the San Francisco 49ers Foundation will commit $1 million to the cause of improving racial and economic inequality.
Through the uproar, many have stood with Kaepernick and supported the quarterback's protest.
Veterans have stood up for Kaepernick on social media. The #VeteransforKaepernick went viral after military vets showed support for his cause.
The Seattle Seahawks announced their plan to protest as a team on Sept. 11, the NFL's opening day where they would play the Miami Dolphins. After receiving backlash in regards to the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the team instead interlocked arms and stood during the national anthem.
At the same time, four Dolphins took a knee during the anthem.
Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall has lost more than one sponsorship for choosing to kneel during the national anthem.
Other NFL players such as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, took on the protest a little differently, raising a gloved fist, similar to Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Whichever way you choose to interpret Kaepernick's actions, there are two things to consider about the situation:
- Patriotism and social injustice in Kaepernick's case are two separate discussions. The NFL player has said numerous times he is protesting against social injustice, not the U.S. or the people who serve the nation.
- Kaepernick has the right to protest peacefully under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also has the freedom of speech under the same amendment. Some have called for the NFL to fine Kaepernick for his actions but that is illegal under the Constitution. The NFL may have strict policies- including dress codes- but they don't have the power to interfere with the Constitution. Taking a knee or sitting during the national anthem isn't against NFL rules.
With all the reactions, regardless of the stance taken, one thing is clear: The silent protest is working. People are responding- whether it be in a negative or positive way.
The distraction is Kaepernick's message. The distraction is the point.
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