Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

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If you’re even the most casual user of social media, you know that scrolling through posts about what’s going on in our world today can sometimes be too much to deal with.

In just the last couple of weeks, we saw a major metropolitan city submerged under water, the California coast engulfed by wildfire, and the farce of a president cancel a program that threatens the lives of more than 800,000 people with deportation. Sometimes it seems like life’s smallest joys—a new album release, our favorite sports season starting up for the year,  a new hit TV show—are the only things that can keep us happy and sane in this crazy world. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the past couple of years, it’s that while ignorance may in fact be bliss, being aware of what’s going on is essential, as long as you curate a safe space of mental, physical, and emotional refuge.

The Colin Kaepernick story is one that made it to the front pages of publications the world over, and it’s one that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. A Black man who used his platform as a professional athlete on what many consider the largest platform in American sports to speak up about the injustices lobbied against his people has been ostracized and martyred by those in power. His ordeal shined a light on the racial injustices that plague professional sports, specifically the National Football League, and has forced the media tasked with covering how many yards a running back rushed for and which coach is officially in the hot seat to actually examine the problems that Blacks are still somehow facing more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement “ended.”

It has also put a focus on those athletes, both past and present, who’ve chosen to ignore what Kaepernick fought for or to speak out against him. Dez Bryant spoke about “having a family to feed” when asked about the protests going on around the league and said that he didn’t “have nothing to say about that.” Lesean McCoy felt as though Kaepernick’s talents on the field weren’t good enough to deal with the “distractions” that come with him. Ray Lewis openly spoke out against Kaepernick’s protests, and later back-tracked by saying he was working to get the 29-year-old quarterback signed to his former team the Baltimore Ravens, until, wait for it, a tweet from Kaepernick’s girlfriend included a racially-charged message regarding Lewis and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. As a football fan, but more importantly, as a Black man, there is nothing more disappointing than to see fellow Black men with a platform tear down people who care about the causes that impact us.

There’s an undeniable pride that I have in being a Black man. It shows in the way I walk, the way I speak, the way my shoulders always seem to find the 2-and-4 of a beat to stay on rhythm no matter what. It’s that pride that allows me to appreciate that the Colin Kaepernicks, the Marshawn Lynches, and the Bennett brothers of the sports world harness the popularity that was bestowed on them because they can run fast and jump high and use it to bring awareness to the problems that Black men and women deal with in this supposed land of the “free.”

That pride turns into shame and disgust when I see people like Jason Whitlock make a mockery of a movement that essentially fights for him. The “journalist” recently posted a photo on Twitter of some random, fake Afro- and beard-wearing dude in a Kaepernick jersey holding up his fist while wearing a black glove to promote his new show on Fox Sports. Why? I don’t know. I understand that all Black people may not agree with Kaepernick or the Black Lives Matter movement, and if Whitlock doesn’t agree with what the quarterback is saying, that’s perfectly fine. But to make a mockery of him, his struggles, and what he’s fighting for is absolutely deplorable. Even worse, it turns out the random dude was actually Christopher “Kid” Reid, of Kid ‘n Play fame. Sometimes you just see and hear things that make you ask out loud, “Why?”

Just this past weekend, Michael Bennett, who along with his brother Martellus has been extremely vocal in their protests in the NFL, was profiled and held at gunpoint by Las Vegas police officers after the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight. Incidents like this happen all the time to Black men nationwide, no matter their status or fame, giving more credence to the issues that Kaepernick and the other pro athletes are protesting. When Whitlock or Christopher Reid or Lewis decide to troll the struggle, I can only hope that they are granted the grace that Kaepernick lobbied for if they should encounter a police officer with his gun drawn.