Why Did Kaepernick Bring Politics Into Sports?

“I watch football so I don’t have to think about politics.”

Many people express this sentiment when it comes to sports and entertainment.  I recently heard it again in reference to President Trump’s weekend remarks about NFL players who protest police violence against African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s remarks prompted various responses from NFL players, coaches, owners and fans.

In the wake of all this many lament how politicized sports has become.

Isn’t this supposed to be mindless entertainment?
A reprieve from divisive politics?

But sports have always been politicized!

The idea that these black athletes are politicizing sporting events is seriously narrow-sighted.  All of our national sporting events are already political.

The act of playing the national anthem, of standing in attention, is already a political statement. We are just so normalized to it that we have forgotten.

The U.S. military spends millions of dollars to fly over stadiums, to send service people to events, to run commercials during broadcasts.

And why do they do that.  They aren’t just recruiting.

They are actively associating American leisure time, American relaxation, American freedom, with the American military.  The wrapping of these symbols of American military power and freedom around sporting entertainment equates the two.

AND IT’S OBVIOUSLY WORKING.

It is working because people have now forgotten that these events are already politicized, or more specifically, they are nationalized.  Sporting events have been equated with supporting the nation itself and the U.S. military.

The idea goes like this:

  1. Because of the U.S. military you are safe.
  2. Because you are safe you can relax.
  3. Because you can relax you can enjoy some entertainment.
  4. And while you enjoy your entertainment we will remind you why you are safe, but playing the national anthem.

Now those aren’t necessarily bad things to think or support or approve of.

But Colin Kaepernick says people like him don’t feel safe

And last year, LAST YEAR, Colin Kaepernick wants to state that African American don’t feel safe in America.  So he decides to take a knee during the national anthem.

During the time that we celebrate our safety (the national anthem) is the moment Kaepernick chooses to say, “I don’t feel safe.”

His idea goes like this:

  1. I and my people don’t feel safe.
  2. We cannot relax and enjoy our lives like many other people can in America.
  3. To draw attention to this I will not stand during the symbol that expresses national safety (the national anthem).

This is a very sauve political maneuver. And it has upset many people.

So please, don’t complain about politics.

Maybe you disagree with Kaepernick and others about the extent of police brutality or harsh tactics. Maybe you disagree with Kaepernick about the choice of venue for his protest.  Maybe you disagree with all of that and more.

But please, don’t complain about politics ruining sports.

Politics and sports have always mixed.

The real question is whether or not you support the politics of the various people involved.

Here are some links to great posts about the mixing of politics, sports, and race. 


(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)