Can your political opinions get in the way of doing your job

rs-colin-kaepernick-cba1b94e-a689-4bf4-9ac7-6e4117275e09Black Lives Matter is a movement/organization that started in 2012, spreading awareness in the U.S about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of their basic human rights and dignity. There is also an opposing movement that claim All Lives Matter. A true statement, but one that takes away from the real issue of racism. When celebrities in the black community want to speak out in support of the movement, they always choose a careful time to do it. Jesse Williams, actor on the ABC drama Greys Anatomy gave an eloquent acceptance speech at the BET awards about his support and need for awareness to the movement. Singer The Weekend shows his stance through donations, a silent but obvious sign of support. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick showed his fight by kneeling during the National Anthem at a football game, a stunt that many believe cost him his job. The argument is, was it his political stance, or his field performance that lead him to be jobless today; I say it’s both.

Back in August of 2016 when the NFL season started, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, sat down through the playing of the National Anthem for the first two games of the season.  Later, he decided to take a knee. Once the public caught wind of what he was doing, and more specifically why he was doing it, the media went into a frenzy. Kaepernick stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” At first, only members of his own team took a knee with him. As the games continued, more and more NFL members started to join in. They decided to not only take a knee but link arms with some even throwing a Black Panther fist in the air, a go-to symbol for strength and solidarity, to also pay tribute to the movement.

With all the support from fellow NFL teammates, Kaepernick’s actions spread through members of other sports and could be seen in the openings of Basketball and Soccer, and even to high school and college level teams as well. The movement of spreading awareness was working, but with that came the hate.

Thinking back to last year and the rise of Trump, times were very sensitive and very heated, so it comes as no surprise that Kaepernick’s stunt was given negative attention. Former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, at the time, tweeted “To all the athletes who have made millions in America’s freedom: stop insulting our flag, our nation, our heroes.” To some people, the flag has so much significance that no matter what your opinions, the flag still needs to be respected.

Now, a year later and with another NFL season about to begin, Kaepernick is a free agent. He willingly left the 49ers and has been waiting for another team to sign him. Many believe that among the 32 teams, he should be getting deals and offers, yet it’s been silent. People who had supported Kaepernick through his activist actions last year are back at his side, not in support but in defense. Recent media coverage has been about the NFL “blackballing” him and conspiracies that teams are being forced not to pick him up for 2017. None of those rumors appear to be true. Most notably the Baltimore Ravens made a statement “We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision, Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.” They are in talks with Kaepernick about possibly joining their team.

While some are quick to say that one team is not enough to deny that NFL is blackballing him, we should look to see what viewers think too. During the 2016 season, Kaepernick’s actions lead him to be the most disliked player in the league. In an E-Poll, roughly containing 1,100 people, 29% of them disliked Kaepernick “a lot.” Kaepernick’s drop in ratings also had to do with his performance on the field. During the season he started in 10 of the 16 games, winning only one game; the 49ers ended the season 2-16. In football terms, those numbers aren’t good. If teams are not lined up to get him, it shouldn’t be a surprise, especially with his track record. PFF (professional football focus) took the stats from the 2016 season and Kaepernick placed 29th overall.

I believe that even with his not so great record last year, he could still be better than Jay Cutler, a player they’re pulling out of retirement to come back. However, because of Kaepernick’s political stance, there is drama that follows with him. John Mara owner of the New York Giants, said that he received so much “emotional” mail about the subject. People claiming “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game.” Mara said that it was the overwhelming amount of mail that made him realize it’s an important and sensitive topic to the fans. Why would an owner risk the state of the team and the fan base that they’ve established for a player who would do a mediocre job?

I see how un-fair the system is to say that, because Kaepernick isn’t a good enough player, he can’t afford to be pulling these stunts, but it’s the truth. Boycotting by the NFL doesn’t appear to be the case. It won’t change the fact that the individual teams decide on who they pick and who they let go. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated “Teams make decisions based on what’s in the best interest of their team” and for most teams, he’s not the best choice or the smartest choice.

Now just because I don’t think that the NFL is blackballing Kaepernick, doesn’t mean I’m a part of the people that oppose him and the point he was trying to make. I whole heartedly believe in what he chose to do. I think that, at that time, it was the best way for him to show his support to the movement and, as an athlete, decided to take a public stance. This year, sources have said that if picked up, he does not plan on kneeling, so possibly that could change people’s opinion of him. What’s unfortunate is that the more people protest and fight for Kaepernick, the harder it will be for him to get picked up. It seems reasonable to assume that with his political activism and his less then great performance, there’s more to why he hasn’t been picked up by any NFL team.

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