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Something Greater Than The Game By Mark Hollis

mark hollisWebster’s dictionary defines solidarity as “unity of a group or class that produces or is based on community of interest, objectives, or standard.” Such is the case of Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. Like many other African-Americans, he has recognized the atrocities associated with unarmed black men being killed in their communities by law enforcement officers. Kaepernick made a conscientious decision to create a silent protest on a national stage and not stand when the National Anthem is played. His decision caused a stir from coast to coast. Many people were appalled that Kaepernick would be so disrespectful to the flag that represented a country that afforded him so many opportunities. What people in opposition to his stance fail to realize is that this was more than just football and money—it was about raising the awareness of the social injustices being perpetrated with no accountability. He brought the realization of the issue to the forefront with the power of sports and whether you agree or disagree, we are all talking about it and what can be done to mitigate it.

The evolution of Kaepernick’s protest is now being realized by his fellow team mates and can be witnessed throughout the NFL, college football, and at some high school levels. In addition, support is streaming in from other sport venues. But let’s be clear, this is not the first incident of athlete’s standing up for what is right.

In 1965, Art Powell with the Oakland Raiders, led a boycott of the AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans when black players were refused equal treatment at hotels and restaurants. Through Powell’s leadership, all 21 team mates refused to play which forced the game to be moved to Houston, Texas.

Another notable mention is Muhammad Ali who refused induction into the armed forces and was threatened with suspensions, jail time, and fines. A coalition led by football great, Jim Brown, and basketball legend, Bill Russell, was instrumental in bringing light to the legal rights of Muhammad Ali. And of course, the 1968 protest by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the Olympic Games brought attention to the plight of black people in America. What is interesting is that there are now statues of Smith and Carlos at San Jose State University commending their stand for justice and Muhammad Ali is heralded as one of our nation’s greatest heroes.

Parts of our society prefer that our athletes simply play the game and not be critical about incidents away from the field of play. But society must realize that underneath the team uniform, there exists an individual with the same concerns as the person next door. We have real problems in this country with race relations and the message generated by Colin Kaepernick has created a sense of solidarity amongst so many people on and off the field. People tend to hear the messenger without grasping the message. The narrative should be that if you aren’t getting the message you need to take time out and listen.