I don’t know Colin Kaepernick. I’ve never met him. We have never been in the same town at the same time. He’s a famous man who made millions of dollars playing football and I’m an inspector of concrete bridge beams. Even though we could not be further removed, I have learned a few things because of him this year.
When the news of him sitting during the national anthem of a preseason NFL game broke, my initial reaction was, “That’s stupid. Everyone stands at the national anthem.” At that time I was blind to the reasons and intentions behind his protest. I viewed him as attention seeking, uniformed and willing to move his agenda forward through any means possible. I held that opinion for quite some time without realizing that it was sinful. I was judging him, and God’s Word clearly tells me in Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” I judged Colin’s intentions as too political, his actions as too offensive, his platform as inappropriate, and his cause as being a non-issue.
I was wrong.
Agreeing with the stance, the opinions or the views of Colin and the other NFL stars doesn’t matter. Whether a person supports their right to sit, kneel or stand, it doesn’t matter. The opinion over what they do during the National Anthem doesn’t matter, because they have been successful in their purpose. They were successful in getting people to talk about their cause- creating conversations in places where they were needed, but not happening. These conversations needed to happen regardless of any personal beliefs and opinions.
The National Anthem protests have brought people together and have torn people apart. Everyone has talked about it; it has been all over the news and social media every day. Sports talk show hosts, celebrities, and politicians have all offered opinions. From the home office to the oval office, our nation is now talking about the topics of racial privilege, social injustice, political division, American pride, constitutional rights, the flag, the military, and first responders in a way that it wasn’t before.
The issues surrounding these topics didn’t arise overnight and they aren’t getting solved in a day. However, the conversations about change have begun. Respectable, influential, and well educated people in this country have begun to open their ears. They are starting to listen and the blinders that some Americans have worn for a long time are starting to be removed. In some ways, the USA is in a different place than it was last summer.
Rosa Parks wasn’t an NFL star and neither was Martin Luther King Jr. They had a cause and a platform, which they used to make a difference; they took a stand by making choices other people opposed. Their actions were upsetting to a lot of Americans but they were unwilling to conform to the unjust normalcy their society laid out for them. The actions and the beliefs of the NFL players can be opposed too. They choose to kneel, raise fists, or lock arms because they are passionate about their cause. They see a need for change and they are they using their platform to initiate it.
I’ve seen the positive outcomes and that is where I am putting my focus. I’ve watched videos of NFL players riding along with police officers. I’ve read reports about the meetings held between them. I witnessed the unity that has been brought forth so far. These men, taking action for what they believe in, have taught me that I don’t really know how the other half lives. My life experience doesn’t give me the right to draw conclusions about the lives of other people. I don’t know what it’s like to be followed around in a store, pulled over in my car, or patted down on the street because of the color of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be judged because of the language I speak or the clothes I wear. In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I want to show that love by taking my blinders off and opening my ears.
How will you show that love?