Standing up for social justice is and always been a noble cause. However, there is a respectful way to do without being ungrateful for those who have died for the freedom of others. The American flag and the National Anthem are symbols of just that, and have been around much longer than President Trump has been alive. Somehow, though, Black Lives Matter groups have taken a stand against racial inequality and law enforcement by shaming the icons that so many Americans honor and respect.
Colin Kaepernick, once the quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers, was the first to take a stand, so to speak, by kneeling during the National Anthem during an NFL game. The act was done in protest to address police brutality and was meant to elicit a reaction, and that it did. The country had divided responses: the left felt that Kaepernick’s actions were brave by sending a powerful message to Washington, however, Conservatives and Veterans were offended and appalled.
Though half of the country did not support Kaepernick, GQ magazine felt it necessary to name him a worthy example by awarding the once-quarterback “Citizen of the Year,” and will feature him on the cover of the December 2017 issue. Formally named “Gentleman’s Quarterly,” the magazine generally features noteworthy celebrities. Considering that Kaepernick is no longer a massive football star, it has become a political issue.
Deeming this man “Citizen of the Year,” is highly insulting to Americans who have made actual sacrifices for our country. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, however, GQ Magazine is glorifying that of Kaepernick’s.
More importantly, is the negative effect that such a claim could have on impressionable minds such as fans, youth, and other current or aspiring professional athletes. Football lovers nationwide come together in a bond which is shared over the sport. Bringing politics onto the field is extremely inappropriate and may initiate bias within fans who may not feel a certain way deep down.
For example, there were likely many 49ers fans who would not have approved of such behavior if committed by a member of another team. However, diehard fans may blindly follow their idols without considering the ethics behind core issues.
Young people are also at risk to adopt thinking that does not line up with their views. Like fans, many children and teens who are still exploring their own political views may see such behavior as an inspiration to act or believe in a certain way.
Kaepernick demonstrated to all of America that it is acceptable to disrespect authority and one’s home country if one aspect of it appears unfair. Children and adolescents are inevitably going to face many situations that be not be completely just, however, learning to deal with such occurrences is an unavoidable part of life in any society. Teaching them to resist when something doesn’t go their way is not a commendable way to raise a new generation of respectable American citizens.
Kaepernick’s actions were not typical of most athletes and NFL players until he started such a trend. Unfortunately, the reaction he provoked in our nation, for better or worse, was notable, and one that other athletes and non-political entertainers will likely attempt to reproduce.
Instead of expressing gratitude for the opportunity to play sports as a career in the United States, we can expect more athletes in the future to use their fame to make political statements if other magazines and media continue to do endorse doing such.
Additionally, sports matches are not the place to address politics, as it a completely different setting which may not consider actual facts. Combined with the fact that many citizens turn to the (mostly) neutral avenues of music, sports, and the arts to escape the political climate for a brief time, fans are unlikely prepared to talk or even think about politics when enjoying any of these pastimes.
If Kaepernick truly desired to stand up against police brutality, then he would have been better off using his passion in a more action-oriented way. Volunteering for a cause that aligns with his views, considering running for a political position, or simply working alongside those already in office are all options for individuals with a desire to create change. However, if hired and compensated generously to provide entertainment via athletics, the most professional thing a player can do is to stay in that field.
Professional athletes with a political agenda should keep one idea in mind: they are very powerful social figures and have an obligation to use their notoriety for the common good. Kaepernick was in a perfect position to get involved in politics outside of his athletic career, using his fame to gain attention to his cause. Instead, he combined the two, which resulted in him losing his position with the 49ers and becoming a joke to much of America.
GQ Magazine is sending a negative message to anyone on the fence about their views on topics such as Black Lives Matter, police conduct, and overall patriotism. If this is the type of “hero” they choose to award their “Citizen of the Year” award to, then readers of the magazine should consider their own beliefs (and who and what they affect) when subscribing to such biased media outlets.