Everyone has an opinion about Colin Kaepernick’s recent actions to silently protest during the playing of the national anthem. Some people emphasize that he’s paid to play football and should “just shut up and play,” or they depict him as unpatriotic and ungrateful of the sacrifices of our service men and women. Others argue that he knows little about the actual African American experience since he is paid millions per year. Still others attack his personal character or performance on the field. Yet each of these reactions ignores the issue that Colin Kaepernick is risking endorsements and fan support to address — racial injustice.
Colin Kaepernick isn’t the first athlete to use his platform for silent protest on behalf of the voiceless. He joins the likes of Muhammad Ali and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos who protested societal ills.
All too often character attacks and smoke screens are commonplace when discussing the deaths of unarmed black males in police involved shootings. The easiest (and often most common) response has been to focus on the criminal record of the deceased rather than acknowledge the loss of life of someone made in the image of God. However, these responses distract us from dealing with an actual issue in America — racial injustice (when people are denied rights and basic liberties because of their race).
More times than I would care to admit, too many focus on “how” he is protesting, rather than “why” he is protesting. But my hope is that we would look beyond his method and consider the real issue: How can we work toward resolving racial injustices in America, rather than allow ourselves to be consumed with the distractions placed before us
As believers, we should also consider the gospel implications of his protest. Kaepernick (and other professional athletes) have decided to endure criticism, and possible loss of fans and endorsements, for the sake of others. They have used their voices and platforms to call for change on an issue that has long plagued our country, racial injustice. They may not have experienced injustice personally, yet they have chosen to concern themselves with the burdens of those who have (and do) encounter such injustice.
These athletes speak for those desperate to make their pleas known but have no platform to do so.
As believers, we have an even greater, perfect example of one who takes on the burdens of those who could never repay Him. One who intercedes for the voiceless and gave His life as a ransom for many. Jesus truly bore our burdens upon His shoulders.
Considering our greater example, my prayer is that we would consider our Savior and look for ways we too can carry one another’s burdens — even if that comes as a sacrifice for us. May we reflect on how we can best glorify God and love others in the midst of a broken world filled with hurting people looking for answers. When the world seeks these answers, may they be able to find them in the church, hear them through the lips of His people and see them in the way we engage these issues.
Maybe you don’t agree with Colin Kaepernick’s form of protest. Either way, let’s pray that we all would reflect Christ in our responses to his behavior. Let’s look past the distractions; let’s consider the gospel implications, and let’s pursue solutions to racial inequality.
Let’s speak where (and when) the church has often been silent!
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.