Editor’s Note: The following letter was recently sent to Colin Kaepernick, back-up quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
As an American, I agree with your right to protest, however, I disagree with kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem.
You proclaim that you are protesting violence perpetrated by police officers, claiming “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Exhaustive investigations are performed after every officer involved shooting that exposes all of the facts that we are not privy to.
I agree with you that our police officers should be held to a higher standard and there are definitely bad apples in the bunch, however, I would remind you that there are bad apples in the NFL as well. Should we protest the entire NFL or all the good things it stands for because of a few bad apples? Should we wear socks with pigs wearing NFL helmets to protest an entire community of players because of the few bad apples?
The Dallas Cowboys asked permission to honor fallen officers by wearing a sticker on their helmets, but the NFL said no. I wonder why they are not allowed their freedom of expression and the right to “protest” the violent deaths of officers who were trying to protect us.
Why are you allowed to have a public forum to express your opinion against police officers when other NFL players are not allowed the same public forum to express an opposing view? In case you don’t catch the irony, that is also a form of oppression.
Are actually “protesting” in any meaningful or helpful way, such as mentoring young men in challenged black neighborhoods, where more black people kill each other than any officers have? Have you met with families who have lost children or family members due to black on black crime? Did you attend the funeral of Rashad Halford Jr., a toddler killed in Fresno by a gunman in front of his parents this past June?
How about the funerals of Travon Lamar Williams, his nine-year old son, and family friend, who were shot and killed by Trayvon Eshawn Brown, who was recently paroled due to California realignment laws, in San Bernardino in July of this year? Have you attended any of the funerals of the many black men, women and children of gun violence that had nothing to do with a police officer just this year alone?
Do you know how much it would mean to their families to have your private or public support? Hundreds of black people are injured or killed by other blacks every year and, yet, I do not hear about you protesting that. Why not? Do you participate in or contribute to a charity that helps victims of violence, not just by the police but all victims of violence?
Have you been on a ride-along with police officers or been present when they were faced with the split-second decision of whether or not to use their weapon? Playing football does not qualify you to judge those who put their lives on the line every day without having all the facts. They do it for me - they do it for you.
Being a good athlete doesn’t make your opinions or your protests any more important than those of a young black man in an impoverished neighborhood trying to survive or a middle-aged white man working a minimum wage job to support his family. We all have opinions but you have the luxury of sharing yours with the nation.
How about making a positive statement and fostering real change instead of making an ineffectual effort that only promotes angry knee-jerk reactions and continues the cycle of “us vs. them?” How can we achieve true equality without oppression as long as we continue to incite hate and point fingers without having all the facts?
I appeal to you to consider your actions and reflect on how you might actually bring about the change you are looking for. I would be happy to stand with you in a meaningful, truth-filled, inclusive protest against those who oppress others of any race or gender, regardless of their profession. But disrespecting our flag? Count me out.
Finally, I will continue to support and honor police officers, members of our military, veterans, Gold Star families, former NFL player Pat Tillman, and the fallen heroes who aren’t alive to tell you how they feel about you refusing to stand for the flag and country they died to protect. God Bless America.