Why is Colin Kaepernick protesting again?

Jake Dressman

Everyone and their mother has heard about Nike’s advertisement featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and it has caused a media uproar with the burning of shoes, cut-up socks and other unique activities. But everyone and their mother is missing something that should be obvious.  

Here’s a quick summary of how it all began: Kaepernick first sat, then knelt for the National Anthem during the 2016 NFL preseason to protest racial injustice and police brutality. His actions spread across the league, and players have continued to kneel this season. In May, the league planned on requiring players to stand for the anthem this season, but that policy is on hold until at least 2019. The controversial QB was not signed by any NFL team last season, so he filed a lawsuit claiming collusion of a team or teams to keep him off the field. 

Now Kaepernick is back in the spotlight with his Nike deal, which might land him millions of dollars per year. And it should considering he generated over $43 million in media exposure in under 24 hours. Although the industry giant’s stock fell 3.9 percent last Tuesday, Wall Street analysts have said that Nike made a smart business decision despite alienating those who believe the former QB is unpatriotic. 

About 53 percent of Americans said it is “never appropriate to kneel for the national anthem,” according to a June poll by the Washington Post. One of those Americans is our president, who has made his stance on the issue abundantly clear. The popular argument is that refraining from standing during the Anthem is disrespectful to the servicemen and women who have fought and died for the flag. That is understandable, but isn’t the flag just a symbol? What does that symbol represent? This is the real question, the real story that no one is talking about because they’ve been drowning in discussions about football players, tweets, and Nike making money. Regardless, many combat and other veterans have come out in support of Kaepernick. 

“The Constitution says that peaceful protest is the right of all citizens, and the issues Mr. Kaepernick is protesting have been going on for the entirety of this nation’s history,” said Theodore Robinson, a U.S. Navy veteran of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Wait, why was Kaepernick kneeling again? Oh yeah, police brutality, specifically. As of late May, more than 378 Black Americans have been killed by the police since Kaepernick protested. While some of those shootings were undoubtedly officers acting in self-defense, there have been numerous cases wherein police officers have utilized unnecessary force—like when 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot at 20 times by two officers in his own backyard. He was unarmed. Some would argue Clark shouldn’t have run when cops approached him, but does that warrant a killing? Is that justice in rule of law? 

No matter how you look at it, the fact is that police brutality is a problem—but a problem with a solution. One such solution is enabling the youth by teaching them how to interact with police officers, like Know Your Rights, a program funded solely by Kaepernick. Another NFL player, Doug Baldwin, advocated for police training reform in 2016, but no known progress has been made with his efforts since. 

One example of reform that has been implemented are body cameras, which are favored by 66 percent of officers surveyed. However, 44 percent of officers say that wearing a body camera would not affect their behavior. About half (53 percent) of officers reported fire-arm training in shoot-don’t-shoot scenarios in the last 12 months. Progress still needs to be made in the relationship between police and citizens, but people like Kaepernick are helping to turn the tides. 

Kentucky had a chance to be apart of the solution when state lawmakers came up with House Bill 66 earlier this year, which would create a seven-member committee for reviewing fatal police shootings. The bill was never even given a hearing. After instances like Assistant Chief Officer Todd Shaw of Jefferson County saying, “F**k the right thing. If black shoot them,” a bill to review our Justice Department is the right thing for this state to enact. 

Your local Bowling Green department has taken measures to prevent citizen fatalities by implementing new officer training scenarios “for sworn personnel to enhance use-of-force decision making skills,” according to the City of Bowling Green 2018 Annual Operating Budget. Small steps like better training and youth programs can solve the issue of police brutality nationwide if they are routinely repeated and expanded across all states. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of noise around every story to distract us from why it is even a story in the first place. It took me four paragraphs to navigate through the noise just so you would read this, a story about police brutality in America. Be a smart media consumer—ignore folly and find facts.