“Uncultured thug!”

“If you don’t like it here, just leave!”

“Shame on you for disrespecting America’s troops”

Ever since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem before a preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers, he has been the target of relentless attacks from people all across the nation. Many of those who disagree with his actions often cite the disrespect towards the armed forces as to their biggest reason why they don’t support his decision to kneel. 

However, members within the group of people that are being defended supported Kaepernick’s actions. Days after his protest, a hashtag – #VeteransForKaepernick – began to spread through Twitter. While not every member of the armed forces agreed with his actions, it was clear that he was exercising his First Amendment rights– the same veterans have sworn to protect. 

This matter is bigger than your favorite team clinching the playoffs. This matter is more than your fantasy lineup. It’s a matter about prominent figures in sports standing up for causes in which they believe in is right, regardless of public backlash. The all-too-familiar statement of people wanting athletes to just “shut up and play” might be one of the most ignorant statements one can throw out there in the realm of sports. Guess what: world-class athletes are not immune to racism. 

Don’t believe me? Moments after Pro-Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks made a clutch play during the 2013 NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers which resulted in Seattle’s victory, he proceeded to rant with raw, gladiator like emotion during a postgame interview on how he was “the best corner in the game.” Was it excessive? 

Just a little.

However, considering it was debatably this play that allowed the Seahawks to proceed to the Super Bowl (one they’d end up winning), it was understandable to see Sherman’s passion let loose during that interview. Nonetheless, thanks to social media, reactions were quick and abrupt. While some understandably weren’t too thrilled with his antics, many were undoubtedly racist, calling him racial slurs and other profane terms. Several Twitter users also employed a popular insult that attempts to hide its true offensive meaning, labeling him a “thug.”

This “thug” graduated with a degree from Stanford University, one of America’s most prestigious institutions. Sherman also graduated as valedictorian of his high school located in Compton, California, steering clear of all the dangerous distractions that the city had been once notorious for. 

Kaepernick’s current situation is eerily similar. Whether you agree or disagree with his anthem protests, one cannot deny his contributions to the community around him. Since October of last year, Kaepernick has donated more than 800 thousand dollars to numerous organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights and Black Veterans for Social Justice. This is a fact that most people choose to be blissfully ignorant towards. He has stood by his promise of helping out the community and those in need — but oh wait, he’s a distraction that doesn’t belong in the NFL.

Another excuse that people love to use to defend his current unemployment is how “he’s not good anymore.” Interesting, considering he led the San Francisco 49ers to back-to-back NFC championships just four years ago. As a Cincinnati Bengals fan, I have yet to see my team advance past the first round of the playoffs (we may currently be 0-2 but don’t sleep on us yet!). In fact, two of arguably the best quarterbacks of the NFL today, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, believe that Kaepernick deserves another shot. Now whose word should we take: elite, MVP winning NFL quarterbacks or that person who believes racism doesn’t exist anymore? 

Akash Bakshi is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Where do you stand on the gridiron with this issue? Let Akash know by tweeting him @akashmbakshi.

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