During the 2016 NFL preseason 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines by sitting down during the playing of the national anthem. Although this was not the first time the quarterback held this silent protest, his remarks to why he did it has led to other athletes following suit by now taking a knee (which apparently has somewhat less of a backlash) during the national anthem ceremonies.
Kaepernick is part of a growing list of athletes that have openly spoke up about social issues. From police brutality to equal pay athletes are now at the forefront of most of these hot button issues. So how are the fans reacting? Well there seems to be quite an interesting divide amongst the general public. On one hand you have individuals who love seeing athletes speak up and raise awareness on these injustices on-the-other-hand you have an uproar of people who believe that athletes should just remain quiet. One of the common arguments why individuals believe that athletes should be quiet is because they make millions of dollars so they should just be grateful! Wait…what?
Is there a salary cap (pun intended) for how an athlete should feel and/or react towards social issues? Morally the answer should be no but, realistically how many individuals (not just athletes) refuse to publically take a stand on issues if it would affect their finances? For example, in the Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Linebacker Brandon Marshall decided to take a knee during the national anthem ceremony. This decision resulted in the loss of two endorsements for the Super Bowl champion. Although the endorsers are well within their right to pull back their endorsements at the end of the day what message does this convey? That if you speak up for equality using the rights governed by the constitution in a peaceful manner you will still have to pay the price (once again pun intended)? Sadly this is the message that will eventually be received as historically endorsements have usually been pulled when an athlete did something that was universally considered wrong or taboo such as domestic violence, cheating on a spouse, steroid use, etc.
Raising awareness for issues that many people do not want to talk about is already a difficult decision that many individuals shy away from due to the potential public scrutiny and backlash. However, as much as we’re taught to not feel sorry for those with more money than us, we have to realize that when it comes to these athletes, celebrities, public figures, etc when it comes to them speaking up to what they feel are injustices they constantly reside in a damned if you do damned if you don’t state. If they do not speak up they are criticized for not using their platform or influence to inspire change similar to athletes like Ali, Robinson, Kareem, and Johnson. However, if they do speak up then they are shamed online, potentially left open to danger, and of course face the loss of endorsements. At the end of the day whether you agree or disagree with how and when athletes should protest the irony in all of this is that the NFL actually gets paid to stage these disingenuous national anthem celebrations in the first place.
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