By Tafi Mhaka

“We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game”

― Bob Marley and the Wailers, Get Up, Stand Up

White America is livid with Colin Kaepernick for standing up for his rights.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been refusing to stand up for the national anthem before the start of NFL games this season.

“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said. “To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

The 28-year-old University of Nevada alumnus’s slated to earn $11 million this year.

His bold political stand against institutional racism and widespread police brutality will most likely deprive him of lucrative endorsement deals worth millions of dollars in the future.

The man is ready to pay the price for his national anthem sit-down protest. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

African-American athletes tend to shy away from politics: Michael Jordan, who refused to endorse a black Democratic candidate standing for senatorial office in North Carolina in 1990, famously quipped: “Republicans wear sneakers too”.

He was referring to Air Jordan sneakers.

They are endorsed by Michael Jordan.

Air Jordan is a brand of basketball footwear and athletic clothing produced by Nike. 

It has been hugely successful.

Because of Air Jordan, mostly, Forbes Magazine estimates Jordan’s considerable fortune stands at $1.14 billion.

As popular as he was in the 1990s Jordan took a lot of flack from the African-American community for his decision to put money over a significant political matter.

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had this to say about Jordan’s stance: “He took commerce over his conscience. That’s unfortunate for him, but he’s got to live with it.”

Times have changed, thankfully.

Some African-American athletes are judiciously utilising their considerable financial clout and fame to bring pressing matters of racial discrimination and social injustice against black Americans to the fore of America’s political conversations.

Lebron James gave a Black Lives Matter-themed speech at the 2016 ESPYs, which were held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California in July.

‘We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence. We do. But that’s not acceptable. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “What are we doing to create change?”‘

He continued: ‘I know tonight we’ll honour Muhammad Ali, the GOAT.

‘To do his legacy any justice, let’s use this moment as a call to action to all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence, and renounce all violence.

‘And most importantly go back to our communities. Invest our time, our resources. Help rebuild them. Help strengthen them. Help change them. We all have to do better. Thank you.’

Trailblazers, brave men like John Carlos and Tommie Smith, designed the blueprint for protests by black athletes in the 1960s, when they famously stood atop the medal podium at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, with their fists raised in protest against social injustice and racial discrimination in America.

“We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country,” Smith said years later, in a documentary on the 1968 Mexico City games produced for HBO. “I don’t like the idea of people looking at it as negative. There was nothing but a raised fist in the air and a bowed head, acknowledging the American flag—not symbolizing a hatred for it.”