Former 49er’s football star Colin Kaepernick couldn’t have predicted the effects of his actions when he chose to kneel — rather than stand — during the National Anthem in August of 2016. All he knew was that he was disgusted by the prevalence of police brutality and the systematic racism in the US, and had to do something to raise awareness.
As a result of his protest — which technically hasn’t ended, Kaepernick became an icon. His fame came with death threats, of course, but he brushed most off to continue protesting what he perceives as injustice. He said at the time, “When there’s significant change and I feel like the flag represents what it’s supposed to represent in this country, I’ll stand.”
Because his actions have influenced millions of people, it was recently announced that the athlete is one of the 10 candidates for TIME’s “Person of the Year” for 2017. Kaepernick is in the running along with President Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the #MeToo movement, among others.
As USA Today reports, the magazine strives to identify “the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse.” In 2016, President Trump was recognized by the magazine. And in 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was recognized as the “Person of the Year.”
Kaepernick made the list not only because he caused a ripple effect by kneeling during the National Anthem, but because he refused to back down when others challenged his beliefs. As a result of his determination and bravery, dozens of NFL players have since taken a knee, sat on the bench, or raised a fist to protest before games this season. According to the Associated Press, 18 players demonstrated in some form last Sunday while The Star-Spangled Banner was played.
The simple form of protest has drawn the ire of many, including US President Donald Trump. He called the effort unpatriotic and disrespectful to the military. On Twitter, he also called the NFL “weak and out of control.”
Responses such as this reveal weakness, rather than strength. For the United States of America to become the safe haven it was once portrayed to be — and to an extent, still is, leaders need to work with all factions of the populace to create a system steeped equality and understanding. Until President Trump recognizes this, protests such as the one Kaepernick incited will only become more prevalent.
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