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Take a seat: silent protest in sports

author: matt wincherauk | editor in chief

Colin Kaepernick

I dislike Colin Kaepernick. After everything that has happened over the past couple weeks, seeing that sentence probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to those that have followed the controversy that stemmed from Colin’s preseason protest. Pretty much everyone and their dog have weighed in on this issue, from politicians, to athletes, and especially the fans. That is where I feel like I can come in and talk with some authority on the subject. When an athlete like Colin makes a statement as he did, why do sports fans react the way they do? Why does the vitriol and hate come out when an athlete decides to make a stand, and leave the comfort of silence and their million dollar styles of life?

Before we get into all of that, let’s go back and qualify the original statement of this article. I dislike Colin Kaepernick.

…as an NFL quarterback.

Kaepernick is amongst the most frustrating quarterbacks that I have ever come across. He’s this rare kind of talent with all of the physical tools to become a star, or even a legend in the game of football; however, Kaepernick just cannot seem to mix the physical and mental sides of football together. He is incapable of reading a defense and constantly makes poor decisions, which has led to his considerable fall from grace despite the relatively short time ago it was that he led his team to a Super Bowl back in 2013. So, what does all that football jargon mean in relation to the problem of sports fandom and making a cultural statement like Kaepernick did? The answer is that sports fans are almost completely incapable of separating their personal feelings for an athlete, and their feelings on a societal issue.

The sports fan that simply doesn’t like an athlete always skews this kind of thinking in regards to athletes and their personal stance on political and societal issues. Whether it’s superstars like the NBA’s LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul making a statement on the stage of the ESPYs this summer, or significantly more mundane athletes like Los Angeles Rams players Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens and Jared Cook protesting the death of Michael Brown back in 2014, sports fan just cannot separate sports from reality. Someone like LeBron can make a well thought out statement on a crushing cultural issue, but because he made life hard on the average sports fan’s team on more than one occasion, he’s going to be tormented on social media for his actions.

I am more than guilty of this kind of thinking from time to time, because my sports brain sometimes simply cannot think to possibly agree with someone that I routinely cheer against. Colin Kaepernick has been the perfect example. My dislike of Kaepernick as a quarterback made me initially think, “come on Kap, just get over it an play football like you’re paid to do.” It was only until I started to think about it for a brief moment that I actually started to see the purpose of Kaepernick’s protest, and the value that it might have. Athletes have this incredible stage to do great amounts of good in this world, and it takes courage to actually go against the grain and take advantage of that opportunity.

So while I might never like Colin Kaepernick as a quarterback because he’ll never live up to the considerable potential that he has, I have an incredible amount of respect for the stance that he took in the overly macho world of sports. A lot of people talk about going against the norm, but only a few actually do something about it, and make a difference. Colin Kaepernick is one of those people.

About Matt Wincherauk