Stepping Up: Kaepernick could be making a bigger impact

Published 3:29 pm Saturday, September 3, 2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has thrust himself not only into national headlines, but also to the forefront of heated debates concerning racial injustice. The former Pro Bowl signal caller elected not to stand during the National Anthem during a recent preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Then, during San Francisco’s preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers, Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem.

Because of it, Kaepernick has been on the receiving end of criticism from the media and others via social media. Those that disagree with his actions call him disrespectful of the nation that has given him the freedom to compete for world championships in the sport he loves.

Many have also called his actions disrespectful toward the military. Football and the military have been always been closely associated. Big games like the Super Bowl oftentimes have flyovers. It’s also relatively common to see military personnel roll out a super-sized American flag during pregame ceremonies.

That said, Kaepernick hasn’t directly associated his protest with the military that ensures American freedoms. In each interaction with the media, he has explicitly stated that it’s black people being killed by police officers. It’s why he wore socks, which likened police officers to pigs, during the aforementioned Chargers game.

Is Kaepernick’s message harsh? Yes. Is he the right person to be delivering such a message? People have differing opinions about it. What Kaepernick has succeeded in doing is using his clout to create conversation about racial injustices.

A byproduct, however, has been that people have been talking just as much — if not more — about Kaepernick and his actions than they have about any racial injustices. Sifting through various social media platforms will turn up just as many conversations about Kaepernick himself as his message.

That begs the question of whether or not Kaepernick has taken the right approach in addressing racial injustice. He has a $114 million contract with the 49ers. With that kind of money, there are other — arguably more productive — ways that Kaepernick can combat racial injustice.

Plenty of athletes give back to their communities for a variety of reasons. Beaufort County natives Terrance Copper and C.J. Wilson both made their way to East Carolina and then the NFL. They frequently return to the area to put on camps for local children, among other philanthropic efforts.

So while Kaepernick’s message is fine and he’s well within his rights, he could certainly make more of an impact. He’s gotten people talking, but with his notoriety and the kind of money he has, he could make much more of a difference.