Remember when Muhammad Ali died?
(Yes, I know it’s a ridiculous question, but just bear with me for a moment.)
Remember when Muhammad Ali died, and so many people shared their thoughts and remembrances of him? How he really was The Greatest and how he earned that nickname not just because of how skilled and proficient he was inside of the boxing ring, but also because he had a magnificent way with words that captivated anyone who would listen. Even when Muhammad Ali used his words to inform his country that he would not allow himself to be drafted into the military and fly to Southeast Asia to participate in the Vietnam War, people definitely listened. And many of them made their hatred and disappointment with his choices very crystal-clear.
But today, we look back at Muhammad Ali and what he said, what he did, what he was willing to stand up and speak out for, and those are the reasons why so many people call him The Greatest.
And yet…forty-nine years after Muhammad Ali refused his draft induction and gave his reasons why, we now have Colin Kaepernick taking a similar stance and sharing a similar opinion.
“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.”
And the responses…are awfully different from what was being said about Muhammad Ali just a couple of months ago.
Some players and coaches expressed their dissatisfaction with Kaepernick and how he chose to express himself.
Drew Brees said he felt compelled to speak out against Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem and said Monday that it was “bothering me all day long.”
The New Orleans Saints quarterback, who has long been a passionate supporter of the military, stressed that he has no issue with Kaepernick’s desire to speak out against racial injustice. He just has an issue with the San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s method of protest. Brees said the American flag is “sacred.”
“I disagree. I wholeheartedly disagree,” Brees told ESPN. “Not that he wants to speak out about a very important issue. No, he can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.
“The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms. It represents the very freedom that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to exercise by speaking out his opinion in a peaceful manner about that issue. …
“Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.”
Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t mince words when asked Monday about the recent protest made by his former quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
“I acknowledge his right to do that. I don’t respect the motivation or the action,” said Harbaugh, who coached Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh looked to clarify his comments in a tweet later Monday.
I apologize for misspeaking my true sentiments. To clarify, I support Colin's motivation. It's his method of action that I take exception to— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) August 29, 2016
All lives matter. So much going on in this world today.Can we all just get along! Colin,I respect your stance but don't disrespect the Flag.— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) August 30, 2016
And some people who saw such responses did not hesitate to step right up and call Bullshit.
There were those who felt that Kaepernick, who is biracial and was raised by two White parents, isn’t really a Black man and has no real understanding of what he is talking about.
Rodney Harrison, a former Chargers and Patriots safety that is now a studio analyst on “Sunday Night Football,” did not focus his comments on the substance of Kaepernick’s comments nor on his decision to do take a seat. Instead, Harrison took issue with Kaepernick’s depiction of himself as a black man. “I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black,” Harrison said on iHeartRadio (h/t Sporting News). “He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single (day) basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.” Harrison later stated, “I’m not saying he has to be black, but I’m saying, his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a black man, or people of color, that’s what I’m saying.”
Then there were those who took a break from eating their Freedom Fries and emptying their bottles of wine down the drain to claim that Kaepernick was disrespecting their flag as well as their country.
Ppl die 4our country. No matter what race they r. N Colin Kaepernick can't even stand for the national anthem? What a disrespectful thug!— ❤~Stefie NYGiants~❤ (@stefiegirlNYG) August 27, 2016
Hey Colin Kaepernick, these Dallas cops won't stand for the anthem either, cause they were killed by a BLM thug. pic.twitter.com/oWYlltBhgR— Bilateral Amputee (@Bilitamp) August 27, 2016
Kaepernick is a joke. People die everyday for that flag— Carter Hankins (@carterhankins11) August 27, 2016
Even worse, he was disrespecting our veterans.
Alex Boone chose his words carefully, noting he’d been warned the question was coming.
But Boone, the Minnesota Vikings veteran guard, made abundantly clear Sunday he was upset by former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick’s recent decision not to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner.
“It’s hard for me, because my brother was a Marine, and he lost a lot of friends over there,” Boone told USA TODAY Sports. “That flag obviously gives (Kaepernick) the right to do whatever he wants. I understand it. At the same time, you should have some (expletive) respect for people who served, especially people that lost their life to protect our freedom. We’re out here playing a game, making millions of dollars. People are losing their life, and you don’t have the common courtesy to do that. That just drove me nuts. You see all these pictures of these veterans that have no legs, and they’re standing up in a wheelchair. I had a brother that served, and he lost friends, and I know how much it means to him. It’s shameful.”
A REAL HERO .. Kaepernick is a THUG outright https://t.co/fmVUUFJ6FJ— WVGalTrumpster (@EyeCandyTMGayle) August 28, 2016
Kaepernick is a thug boy that supports thugs life matters https://t.co/5JnReDl5K9— AIM HIGH (@flyboy29312002) August 28, 2016
And if that wasn’t enough, the real heartbreak came when Elliot Stabler got involved with this.
Damn you, Meloni! I can’t believe you’re making me bring out Tyra Banks on you!
So instead of focusing on and discussing why Kaepernick was taking this stance and expressing his opinion in the first place (all while putting his career and possibly his safety in jeopardy, mind you), too many people decided to just focus on another Black person in the spotlight for not behaving and speaking like they want/expect/demand them to.
Cam Newton had to deal with that.
Gabby Douglas had to deal with that.
And now Colin Kaepernick is the next in line to get the “Shut up and smile and entertain us” treatment from the same people who look at and speak of President Barack Obama with blatant disrespect in almost every way imaginable.
The same people who will cheer and nod their heads in agreement and not say a word of disagreement when Donald Trump spews hateful rhetoric towards women, African-Americans, athletes who suffer personal loss due to violent crime, or the grief-stricken parents of a soldier who died while defending his country.
The same people who will gladly remain silent when others are saying that Black Lives Matter and will only open their mouths to interrupt and say that All Lives Matter.
The same people who will insist on standing up and letting everyone see and know how patriotic they are, while also refusing to change the name of their team and organization to show respect towards those who were the first to discover and inhabit this country.
Jay Gruden: the Redskins will "take our helmet off and stand up and give respect" during the anthem https://t.co/NxUIKdN0Kk— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) August 29, 2016
The same people who will only show their support for the troops through bumper stickers and Facebook memes, instead of making sure that troops can come home and receive the help and treatment they need in order to prevent something like this from happening again and again and again.
But no, Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand up for the National Anthem (an anthem that partly celebrates slavery) is what’s really deserving of our attention. Because reminding him and everyone like him that Black lives don’t actually matter and that they need to know their place is of far greater importance.