Two years later, Colin Kaepernick's protest is still alive and well, as Miami Dolphins players Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kicked off Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season by taking a knee during the national anthem of the Miami vs. Tennessee game.
While some citizens and corporations are rallying behind Kaepernick’s protest, others are still trying to figure out what exactly Kaepernick's agenda is. Although it is valid, Kaepernick’s protest is likely to lose its stamina and credibility if no serious societal or legal change takes place.
Although Kaepernick has been active in the community through donations, fundraising and events targeting the youth, he has done little to actually call for any type of policy change or reform that could resolve the systemic oppression he has so boldly spoken out against.
He recently made the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary ad for its famous “Just Do It” motto. It is clear that both Nike and Kaepernick are benefiting from the campaign, but how is this progressing the cause?
If this truly is a righteous cause, it should be questioned, held accountable and be pushed to take the next step toward progress. What reform is it calling for? What policy is it trying to change? If this really is a fight against institutionalized and systemic racism, meaning that the laws and society are contributing to the unfair treatment of minorities, then it is the laws and society that must be changed.
Kaepernick has undoubtedly been an activist on and off the field, as he has hosted “Know Your Rights Camps” in major cities that provide resources to youth in efforts to raise awareness on self-empowerment and teach the correct way to interact with law enforcement.
Kaepernick’s camps advocate a 10-point system, reminiscent of the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program, that list 10 rights. More sentimental than practical, this 10-point system fails to address any real demand for social change.
The BPP’s 10-point system clearly stated demands that would directly impact the black community, such as, “We Want All Black People When Brought To Trial To Be Tried In Court By A Jury Of Their Peer Group Or People From Their Black Communities” or “We Want Freedom For All Black Men Held In Federal, State, County And City Prisons And Jails.” Whereas Kaepernick’s system address rights that sound nice enough such as, “You have the right to be loved,” “You have the right to be healthy” and “You have the right to be brilliant.”
We do not need NFL players kneeling during the anthem to know that there is a problem. As more and more videos of police misconduct and shocking cases of black individuals being shot even inside their own homes surface on mass media. It is unclear in the two years that the protest has been active if any decrease in police brutality has been made. With a simple tag search #policebrutality there are more than 400,000 posts and videos readily available on Instagram highlighting videos of police misconduct and other police related incidents.
Although it made for an iconic image, kneeling is no longer the answer. These activists can kneel for the next two years, but if no reform takes place, they kneel in vain. And unless a player protesting in the NFL brings about some major societal or legal change soon, I believe Kaepernick's movement will have completely run its course.