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I Stand with Kaep

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Photo Courtesy of Nike

Photo Courtesy of Nike

Photo Courtesy of Nike

Andrew Bandstra, Co-Sports Editor

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Colin Kaepernick. Five years ago, this name resonated with sports fans differently than it does today. In 2013 Kaepernick took over for an injured Alex Smith and took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. An inspiring story of a young quarterback who beat the odds and was destined to be a household name.  

Just five years after that Super Bowl run, Kaepernick’s name arguably stirs more controversy than any other topic in America. Countless Americans no longer view Kaepernick as an inspiration, but rather as public enemy number one. 

For me, the name Colin Kaepernick is more inspiring today than ever before.  

I view Kaepernick as a hero. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Kaepernick situation, let me get you up to speed. Following Kaepernick’s Super Bowl run, and black men being shot by police officers seemingly every week, Kaepernick decided to use his platform to make a change. He decided he was going to sit during the national anthem prior to each football game as a form of protest to the unjust slaying of black men. He changed his strategy when a U.S. Army veteran reached out to Kaepernick expressing his view that Kaepernick’s sitting during the anthem was disrespectful. The veteran, Nate Boyer, and Kaepernick found middle ground in kneeling during the anthem being that it is a sign of respect in some military exercises. 

Kaepernick was outspoken in saying that his protest was in no way, shape, or form intended to be a means of disrespect to the military. He went on to say that he didn’t believe that American values such as liberty and justice–the values military members fight to defend the right to–were granted equally to all Americans, particularly black citizens. Kaepernick said that he wouldn’t stand for an anthem until equality is achieved.  

Kaepernick’s name is becoming a major talking point across America once again following a recent Nike advertisement. For Nike’s 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” slogan, they shocked the world with their choice to use Kaepernick as their headliner, with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. This advertisement has caused a Lebron-James-leaving-Cleveland type reaction. People everywhere are burning their Nike apparel in protest of the company supporting the former 49ers quarterback.  

Besides the fact that this is a beneficial marketing move from Nike’s perspective, I’ve never been prouder to wear the “swoosh.” Nike is not just a brand; they are a worldwide cornerstone. They have the power to influence millions of people with a simple advertisement. Simultaneously, they know that taking such a political stance can cost them billions, but Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, has shown his interest in equality over revenue, and this is a commendable move.  

Despite what I view as a heroic approach to achieving equality, an outbreak of hate and exile aimed at Kaepernick led to the NFL ostracizing the quarterback, and three years removed from leading a team to the Super Bowl, Kaepernick is without a job. A talented quarterback is without a job due to widespread inability to understand and respect his message, and outcry to put a halt to systematic racism and unjust deaths. 

Earlier this year Kaepernick was set to workout with the Seahawks in what can be viewed as a tryout, but later had the workout cancelled by the team after telling them he wouldn’t stop protesting. He is firm in his stance and is now focusing his time and money on achieving equality. He embodies Nike’s advertisement slogan perfectly. He is sacrificing fortune and fame to stand up for those whose voices aren’t heard. Kaepernick is now suing the NFL due to the exclusion.  

Kaepernick’s joblessness has nothing to do with his ability to play the game. Rather, it’s a backlash against a man who wouldn’t stand for racial inequality and African-Americans being shot by police officers at an alarming rate. Not hiring Kaepernick has everything to do with him protesting, and nothing to do with his ability. Last year there were 81 quarterbacks on NFL rosters.  

Colin Kaepernick was not one of them.  

Statistics beg to differ that Kaepernick’s protests have nothing to do with him not being signed.  One method to measure a quarterback’s success and talent is by a statistic known as “quarterback rating” or QBR. QBR takes into account many of the major statistics of a quarterback and rates them on a scale of 0-158.3. Where does Kaepernick rank? Must be low if the NFL thinks that he isn’t one of the best 81 quarterbacks on an NFL team, right? Wrong. Kaepernick has the 16th best career QBR in the history of the NFL and has the 19th best in NFL playoff history. He also has one of the most statistically impressive playoff performances of all time and led his team to a Super Bowl in his first year as a full-time starter.  

And while, like any quarterback, Kaepernick does have his flaws, these numbers alone have earned him a spot, at the very least, as a backup on any team in the NFL. 

The NFL, who has as much power as any entity in America has made an example of Kaepernick. They’ve shown that if you don’t keep quiet and abide by their agenda of not rocking their base, you’ll be without a job. They’ve achieved the opposite of Kaepernick’s mission. The NFL had the chance to not only allow their players to assert their first amendment rights but to also contribute to rejecting the oppression of black citizens across the nation. Rather, their expulsion of Kaepernick has allowed our nation’s racist “order” to exist, and even thrive more than ever.  

Nike on the other hand has taken the stand the NFL refused to and showed that they’ll fight to make the anthem stand for what it is supposed to, freedom and liberty for all.  

I couldn’t be happier that Nike stands with Kaepernick; after all, all he was trying to do was achieve equality. At the end of the day, Kaepernick chooses to value human lives over a piece of cloth known as the American flag. Which do you value more? 

I stand with Kaep. 

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