Aside from actual politicians, there have been few public figures more polarizing in the last couple of years than Colin Kaepernick.
We live in a time of celebrities accused of abuse and sexual assault and of total lunatics holding political office. But there are still millions of people riled up about Colin Kaepernick not standing for the National Anthem.
So when GQ made Colin Kaepernick their Man Of The Year for 2017, they knew that they were stirring the pot a little.
First of all, this is not even Colin Kaepernick’s first GQ cover.
But last time, he was considerably less controversial. He was mostly known for, what? Being hot?
Like, a third of football players are known for that. Because they’re athletes.
But Colin became controversial in the fall of 2016, when he knelt rather than stood for the US National Anthem.
Though the Anthem has been played at football games (and other sport events), the tradition of NFL players standing for the Anthem dates back to … 2009.
Colin Kaepernick made it clear at the time that he was protesting against the unjust killings, by police officers, of unarmed black people throughout the US. We’ve all heard story after story of this happening, with some of the victims being children.
Kaepernick also made it clear that the fact that the perpetrators of these killings then getting paid leave and so frequently (almost always) never seeing the inside of a jail cell despite having killed someone and abused their position was further cause for protest.
Colin Kaepernick also pledged $ 1 million to charities that help communities in need, putting his money where his mouth is in his effort to make the world a better place.
And he started a movement of other athletes — at the professional level, but also of young children — kneeling to protest against injustice. Other, white NFL players knelt in solidarity with their teammates and with the countless others who face systemic oppression.
But in the course of the 2016 election season and the controversy, sometimes that message got muddled. So Kapernick was happy to be featured by GQ in order to “reclaim the narrative of his protest.”
GQ writes about Colin Kaepernick:
“He’s been vilified by millions and locked out of the NFL — all because he took a knee to protest police brutality.”
“Colin Kaepernick’s determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson — athletes who risked everything to make a difference.”
He’ll be remembered in history for it, that’s for sure.
“He is still, to this day, one of the most gifted quarterbacks on earth.”
(I’m not even a sports fan by any measure, but even I knew that)
“And yet he has been locked out of the game he loves — blackballed — because of one simple gesture: He knelt during the playing of our national anthem.”
He’s suing over that, by the way, accusing the NFL of collusion with team owners.
“And he did it for a clear reason, one that has been lost in the yearlong storm that followed.”
We’ll get to that confusion in a moment, but yeah, the original meaning has been somewhat lost.
But GQ reminds us of the original intent:
“He did it to protest systemic oppression and, more specifically, as he said repeatedly at the time, police brutality toward black people.”
That’s important, folks.
It’s easy to forget — in light of the current political climate and Trump, a sitting President, referring to kneeling American athletes as “sons of bitches” — that Kaepernick’s
Though one could argue that his protest is against much of what Donald Trump and his voter base represent: white supremacy, unfettered violence, and a level of feverish nationalism that actual patriots find horrifying.
But Obama was President (remember that? It feels like that was years ago, not 10 months) when Kaepernick first took a knee.
It was Trump who made this — all of the kneeling athletes — about himself.
The result is that some diehard Trump fans are boycotting the NFL.
Many of those who are outraged seem to be fuming that these successful athletes are protesting, believing that it’s “anti-American” … even though, historically, protesting injustice is one of the most quintessentially American things that one can do.
In many cases, racism seems to be an underlying factor behind the anger being directed at NFL players. That’s fitting, since institutionalized racism and the resulting violence is what those players who take a knee are protesting in the first place.
(GQ is only the latest magazine to make Kaepernick’s protest its cover story)
As you can probably imagine, they’re not loving that Colin Kaepernick is GQ‘s Man Of The Year.
As you can also probably imagine, the responses are pretty divided along party lines.
The decision has earned mostly praise form the political Left and scorn from the political Right.
Some have professed a more nuanced view, citing that they support Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest … but don’t think that he makes the best symbol of a push for change.
Why? Because he didn’t vote in the 2016 election. Some say that it’s hypocritical for him to lose his career fighting for justice but not wield his sovereign rights as a citizen to actually fight injustice at the polls.
Like we said, he’s a very polarizing guy.