Sport and politics sure do make for strange bedfellows.
As a rule, athletes are meant to straddle the line between children’s role model and professional sticking to their profession to appease members, sponsors and stakeholders.
Nothing more, nothing less.
So needless to say those that adopt a moral stance for the sake of the former will come under severe backlash.
This is where reserve 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick currently finds himself, refusing to stand for the American national anthem before kick off and in doing so, creating a media frenzy firestorm that won’t be going out anytime soon.
If the man is to be taken at his word, it didn’t intend to be a big deal – just a personal choice.
During the pre-season Kaepernick had been sitting while the rendition was playing out and it wasn’t until the footballer was asked in the locker room after a number of games why this was the case that it became the phenomenon it is now.
Speaking with ESPN late last month, the player went into detail about his rationale.
“People don’t realise what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”
“It’s something that I’ve seen, I’ve felt, wasn’t quite sure how to deal with originally. And it is something that’s evolved. It’s something that as I’ve gained more knowledge about, what’s gone on in this country in the past, what’s going on currently. These aren’t new situations. This isn’t new ground. There are things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed, and they need to be.”
The issue of police brutality against African Americans was the problem singled out by the QB as he opened up over an absorbing 20-minute plus interview.
Any credible statistic on the treatment of black people by police would validate Kaepernick wholeheartedly – whether that involves murder rates, incarcerations or simple stop-and-frisk interrogations.
But so often it is not about the content of the message, only the identity of the messenger, how they are presenting the message and when they are making it.
The touchpaper was lit when the 49ers took part in week 1 against the LA Rams where the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks were taking place.
The subsequent kneel was derided for disrespecting those that fought and died for the flag as former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer told him in no uncertain terms to “shut up” for the sake of the team dynamic.
Kaepernick has now inadvertently made himself a lightning rod, with supporters and haters alike looking to him as the reference point.
Yet protests on the basis of racial inequality are nothing new, going back to the black power salute of the 1968 Olympic Games all the way up until the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts were being worn by NBA players in 2014.
Amid the most toxic US Presidential Election in modern times following on from the Black Lives Matter movement taking shape, Kaepernick’s actions do align with the appetite for change in society.
Agree or disagree with Kaep, his timing is poignant.
Protests are by their very nature intended to shake up the status quo and only carry weight if someone with a platform actually uses it.
By this measure the quarterback is utilising his profile in a manner he believes best suits his perspective and life experience.
Far be it for someone external to that to try and put him back in his box.
Whilst his actual football career has fallen off the radar significantly since he led the franchise to Super Bowl XLVII, there is little doubt this is what Colin Kaepernick will be remembered for.
And given the scenes that were produced in Seattle this past weekend, that is no mean feat.
As the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks prepared to clash in Washington State in the nation’s North West, teammates stood locked arm-in-arm in a symbol of solidarity.
Coach Pete Carroll embraced the spirit of the message and illustrated that a peaceful protest does not need to result in isolation.
Few will think about the ills of the world differently given Kapernick’s actions because each individual reaction is purely subjective.
When he decided to confront the journalist’s question in the lock room that day, the athlete wanted to make his point heard and for a discussion to take place.
If he achieves nothing else from here on out, he did put that in motion.