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The 21st century is the age of information and mass media. With the government and corporate control over the internet vanning, an individual’s actions today can achieve that which 50 years ago was considered impossible. Access to information provided new tools to reach out to millions of people worldwide in order to fight discrimination, violence, and racism. The newly discovered freedom of speech caused a major shift in public opinion, supplanting the power of dominant population in America to suppress, exploit, and belittle the country’s minorities. The result of such shifts was the protest of Colin Kaepernick, who opposed the flag of a nation that allowed for innocent people of color to be gunned down by police with impunity.
Socio-Cultural Causes Behind Kaepernick’s Protest
In order to understand the magnitude and bravery behind Kaepernick’s protest, it is important to realize the pressure placed on every single media representative in the entertainment industry. Sports athletes, musicians, and actors provide entertainment for large groups of people. It also makes them slaves to public opinion, since they must speak what the public wants them to hear, lest they lose popularity and employment. By putting himself on the line, Kaepernick risked his career and employment in the forty-niners’ sports club. There are several reasons as to why he did it.
The first reason is the violence against black people that had been escalating in the past 5 years. According to the FBI bulletin, black victims of police violence constitute 25% of the entire group, despite comprising roughly 13% of the entire population (Payne). One of the most famous examples of institutionalized police brutality included the apprehension of Ferguson riots in 2014, which resulted in 1 death, 10 injuries, and over 300 arrests (Payne). The awareness of multiple acts of police brutality across the US was made possible because of social media and the Internet, which helped collect proof and share information between many people.
The second factor that contributed to Kaepernick’s impact was the existence of various social movements promoting racial and gender equality. One of these major groups is Black Lives Matter, which helps shape the public opinion by exposing various injustices and violations against the black community by the government, the educational system, the businesses, and the law enforcement. The organization exists since 2013, and during the four years before Kaepernick’s incident, it managed to gain significant exposure and promote the rights of black people across the US (Virk).
The last factor revolves around sustainability. Fifty years ago, any activist challenging the status quo could be effectively suppressed by being fired and shunned by the predominantly white community. Black rights leaders did not see any government support and had to rely on their own supporters to promote the cause. Because of this factor, it required figures like Martin Luther King Jr. as well as massive boycotts and demonstration to make a dent in the public opinion.
Although Kaepernick was expelled from the forty-niners for his action, he received support and endorsements from numerous companies, one of the being Nike (Virk). His image was used to facilitate a social awareness campaign, which was in line with the company’s views on social responsibility (Draper and Belson).
Effects of Kaepernick’s Protest
Two years from now, the effects of Kaepernick’s protest can finally be evaluated with a degree of certainty. The player suffered, as ever since being fired from the club, he did not find a different sporting team. Aside from participation in Nike’s social awareness advertisement, he did not have any major contracts (Payne). For an athlete, 2 years off the field is akin to a death sentence. It shows that going up against the established “status quo” still has a price. However, his sacrifice was not in vain, as it sent ripples across American society. Many other athletes have joined Kaepernick in the act of protest, refusing to salute the American flag, which, in their view, stands for discrimination, slavery, and violence against black people.
President Trump’s spiteful reaction to Kaepernick’s protest, as seen on twitter, could also be seen as an achievement, as it helped expose the man’s true opinions about police violence, riots, and gender inequality in general. Even though 2 years have passed, Kaepernick’s actions are still mentioned during mid-term elections by politicians and pundits on both sides of the spectrum (Payne). The change that Kaepernick and other athletes risked their careers for will not happen overnight, but it is happening. The public has not forgotten, and there is a debate going on, meaning that the conditions and the treatment of black people in the US are going to change for the better.
Kaepernick’s protest was the result of a variety of causes that happened beforehand. Although the continuous violence against black communities by the police was the triggering event, the groundwork was laid by the invention and use of social media, the creation of dedicated organizations to protect black rights, and the continuous fight for liberty and equality that has been going on in the US since 1954. Although the impact of his actions was not as apparent as Martin Luther King’s, the ocean is made out of droplets. The more people like him speak up, the more likely it is for change to happen.
Draper, Kevin, and Ken Belson. “Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Campaign Keeps N.F.L. Anthem Kneeling in Spotlight.” The New York Times. 2018. Web.
Payne, Marissa. “Colin Kaepernick Refuses to Stand for National Anthem to Protest Police Killings.” The Washington Post. 2016. Web.
Virk, Kameron. “Take a Knee: Aspiring NFL Players on Colin Kaepernick’s Protests.” BBC News. 2019. Web.