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Pro Athletes Have a Unique Platform and They’re Using It

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If you want a hot topic to debate, why not talk about the flag controversy that has been brewing since last year? Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the national anthem to protest social inequality in the U.S. and it has created a firestorm.

It seems that because Kaepernick was an NFL player that an instant social justice platform was launched. I suspect if average Joe or Josephine would have made the attempt, it probably would have taken longer.

I have been attending athletic events for years and have observed that not everyone stands when our national anthem is played. I, nor any of the people around me made any comments to the person who didn’t stand. I wonder why?

Was it because it was none of our business? Could it have been because we didn’t want to get into a protracted conversation about why they didn’t stand? Or lastly, could it have been that we wanted the game to begin and enjoy ourselves?

Certainly, before Kaepernick’s gesture, you didn’t see cameras scanning the crowd to see who was standing and who was sitting. People go to games to get an emotional release from the everyday issues of life.

When we pay as fans roughly two hundred dollars for tickets, parking, refreshments and a T-shirt, do we really want to engage the fan next to us about his or her political views? Probably not.

Does that mean we don’t care? No. However, it does mean in my opinion that the venue is the wrong one to have that type of discussion.

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Just think if the cameras had not shown Kaepernick kneeling, would there be this debate? That’s a good question. We don’t need to answer because the cameras did show him taking a knee so the stage was set.

His kneeling has sparked a movement not only in professional sports like football and basketball but also in homes across America.

Everyone has an opinion and wants to make a statement about it. If things go as planned, Kaepernick will attend the next meeting between the players and the owners.

Speaking of the owners, Robert C. McNair, owner of the Houston Texans said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” Of course, those comments led the Houston Texans’ players to kneel in their game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Now if you ask me, I don’t think McNair thought he would get this kind of reaction from what he said. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, said McNair used the wrong expression and is really a “solid citizen”.

Well, I think you must hold McNair accountable for what he said. I remember my mom telling me when I was a boy that if you can’t say something good about someone to just keep your mouth closed. McNair should have just kept his mouth closed.

What Kaepernick did last year while new to some was not new if you are old school like many of us.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith, two Olympic champions, gave the Black Power salute, a clenched fist raised in the air, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Both Carlos and Smith used their sport to call attention to the social issue of the time and that was how Black people were being treated in America.

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Unfortunately, Carlos, Smith and Kaepernick were and are dealing with the same issue.

Professional athletes occupy a unique position that we don’t have. Some have chosen to use their platform to bring attention to issues of social justice.

NFL players like Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman of the Seahawks are speaking truth to power. Those in positions of power cannot shy away from understanding the importance of these issues and the subsequent actions and reactions.

Professional athletes are not property. They have ideas they want to bring forward for the common good. We as fans cannot think they are mindless and thoughtless people who have nothing to say. They are not gladiators in an arena.

That is why some fans get so upset now because they want athletes to “stay in their place.”

Their place is in America just like ours is.

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.

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