Citizen of the Year?



Colin Kaepernick the football player was exciting, extremely talented and nearly won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. After losing to the Baltimore Ravens by three points and having a successful season individually, it seemed as if Kaepernick’s career would only get better. As time progressed, the eyes of many were no longer watching his on-field play, but shifted to his protest against police brutality and social injustice.

Now at the age of 30, Kaepernick is amongst the National Football League’s free agent list, probably more towards the upper echelon, too. Despite many teams losing their starting quarterbacks to injuries (particularly Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts,) Kaepernick has remained on the sideline with no teams willing to take a chance at signing him. It is far past the game of football at this point, and as a matter of fact, it has become quite personal. For instance, Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a former Army Ranger who toured Afghanistan several times. Believe what you want, but the national anthem at any sporting event is supposed to bring us together- no matter what race, what ethnicity, or what god you believe in (if any at all)- that is a time where we stand together and appreciate our freedoms that were fought for by men and women like Villanueva in the United States.

Photo by Mike Morbeck

Now what if Kaepernick were on the opposing team, on the opposite sideline from Villanueva? Again, believe what you’d like, but wouldn’t you feel a bit disrespected?

Colin Kaepernick has every right to protest in whichever way he’d like, but NFL owners have every right to not want to pay him with their money. Football is extremely profitable and owners are in it for more than just the sport itself, so if they feel an asset won’t benefit their business as a whole; they won’t take a chance. I do believe in Kaepernick’s protest, in the sense that there needs to be attention focused on the social injustices that exist in society, but his form of protest is absolutely ludicrous. After all, this is a man who once wore a Fidel Castro shirt and socks that depicted police officers as pigs to an interview. On top of dividing the national community even further than it already was, Kaepernick has been eerily silent throughout the last few months.

Some people say that his silence is powerful, but in this particular case, that’s the equivalent of starting a forest fire and standing directly in the middle of the ring you’ve created. Maybe his silence stems from this massive societal fire he’s created, and he simply doesn’t know how to put it out. Again, his efforts to tackle a major problem are noble and justifiable, and he has used his voice and stature within the community to make a stand (or take a knee.)

Why speak about these problems instead of stay silent? Because any positive that has been made, was quickly negated by a negative. People around the United States keep saying, “Kaepernick will not be silenced,” but my question is- when is he going to speak? It would be ideal to turn his words into actions, but to do that first the words must be spoken. His silence has done a lot of damage (in the good and bad sense of the word,) but GQ Magazine has taken this debacle to a whole new level.

Yes, Colin Kaepernick is a powerful symbol of activism and has most definitely raised awareness, but should he really have been dubbed Citizen of the Year? Yes, he has donated $800,000 of his own money to empower oppressed people which is definitely an admirable thing to do, but we can’t forget that his last contract with the San Francisco 49ers paid him nearly 12 million dollars. He has given money to groups such as Meals on Wheels, Black Veterans for Social Justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights and ironically, Kaepernick has donated to a foundation called Silence Is Violence, which is the most oxymoronic action of his campaign.

So, does he have a right to be in this pool of individuals who have serviced their community? Absolutely; but Citizen of the Year sounds like a publicity stunt for the dying industry that is the magazine market to cause controversy and stir up emotions. Players across the NFL have continued to kneel during the national anthem despite Kaepernick’s absence from the league, continuing to show the support for his cause. Meanwhile, J.J. Watt, a member of the Houston Texans, raised more than 37 million dollars for a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fundraiser. His original goal was $200,000, but at the time of the foundation’s close- 200,000 people donated money.

This feat isn’t talked about in that discussion mainly because it’s far from controversial, so what makes Kaepernick any better of a candidate than Watt? American society loves drama, we thrive off it, and it’s a source of entertainment for many. This saga will continue for as long as Kaepernick remains silent, for as long as people fail to realize that the reason he doesn’t have a job because of the baggage he carries- not because he is black. Race is a social construct that’s walls need to be knocked down, because divided minds will never find success. The attention has been brought to the topic, and America is waiting to hear your voice. We’re rooting for you to get back to the game of football, and to stand up to this dilemma that have created, literally. Hopefully he can live up to the honor he has received from GQ Magazine and find a solution that benefits everyone in the end, especially himself.