At the start of each football season I try to prepare myself for the influx of weekly posts online about athletes, teams and the best plays of the week. However, the start of this season had a different message to send.
On Aug. 26, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem at a pre-season game. When later interviewed, Kaepernick said that he performed his actions in order to defend the lives of African-Americans and minorities in the United States because he believes they are treated unfairly. The 49ers issued a statement defending Kaepernick’s decision saying he has “the right of an individual to choose and participate — or not — in our celebration of the national anthem.” Despite the support from his team, the backlash from the public has sparked a national conversation about the issue.
After the first weekend of regular season NFL games, more players joined the movement that Kaepernick started. Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem alongside 49ers safety Eric Reid. Players on the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs stood during the national anthem with a fist raised in the air. The entire Seattle Seahawks team stood with their arms linked to show unity.
When the average citizen sits during the national anthem at a ball game, nobody starts to post online or cause a scene over it. But when a high-profile football player does, the country starts to question their actions in an uproar of criticism. This is exactly the conversation people need to be having. It’s important that people who choose to use their fame for a cause also do so with respect. People don’t have to agree with someone’s protest or their point of view, but Americans need to respect and tolerate the right to the freedom of speech.
The role that social media has played in this protest is irreplaceable. Photos of Kaepernick and many other players protesting during the national anthem in order to speak out against racial inequality have been frequent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, news websites and many more online platforms since Aug. 26. Social and political figures have joined the conversation on social media as well. Model Kate Upton and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz have spoken out against the actions, while others have used their social media to support the players. Twitter had hashtags trending like #VeteransforKaepernick, where U.S. military veterans made videos and statements supporting the player in his decision to protest something he believes in.
As more players join in the fight and more people join in the conversation, it’s important that people educate themselves on the issues and make respectful comments. Use social media to defend your position and spark a conversation.
Jordan McCrary is a sophomore public relations major from South Florida. She serves as the 2016–2017 vice president of member services for the University of Florida PRSSA Chapter. Jordan can often be found drinking iced coffee, talking about her dogs or volunteering at a local Gainesville elementary school.