Unless you have been in an isolation booth meditating for the last couple of weeks, you probably have heard about San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kapernick’s - now - not-so-silent protest of police brutality on African Americans. In case you were in that isolation booth, Mr. Kapernick has chosen to not salute the American flag during the national anthem. His first effort to raise awareness was by sitting bench during the anthem. Then the following week Mr. Kapernick met with a former NFL player and veteran to talk about how his actions are viewed by the military, so in his next game he took a knee versus seating on the bench to show more respect. There is no mystery on this folks, Mr. Kapernick is exercising his first amendment right to free speech and expression – whether you disagree with his approach or not.
Other players have followed Mr. Kapernick’s approach to the silent protest during our anthem, but the debate or should I say backlash around this to me is shocking. Mr. Kapernick and fellow players are not breaking any laws. They are purely using their status as public figures to heighten awareness on what has been a disturbing 24 months of senseless murders of people of color by some police officers. I would add that there have been equally senseless murders of police officers related to this very topic. Clearly, silent protests over retaliation is more acceptable no?
So I ask you this question – is it so terrible that public figures exercise their right to free speech and expression? Well, I am finding that this hubbub is spilling over into day-to-day business activities. I recently attended a local chamber of commerce event, which began with everyone standing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Well as we were asked to stand, some people in the audience traded barbs about “taking a knee” or doing a “Kapernick” as they began to stand. Once the pledge was complete the person leading it said over the microphone “I don’t think anyone took a knee.” Some audience members laughed. I didn’t. So now people are being shamed or bullied for exercising their first amendment right? How ridiculous and wrong is this? I feel bad for anyone who might be too infirm to stand. What are they going to do? Will they be the forced to report to the event organizers that they are disabled and won’t be standing? That is a whole other level of civil rights being violated that people are not recognizing in this matter.
Look, everyone has their opinion and are definitely entitled to it (there is that free speech again.) But to make jokes about taking a knee or not is immature at the very least. I would imagine that it took some soul searching for Mr. Kapernick to decide to share his disdain for police brutality in such a public way. It’s a gesture – it doesn’t mean he is not being American – it doesn’t mean he is being militant – he simply is making the statement that he believes that right now the actions of some Americans today and the response of authority’s is not living up to the meaning behind the flag salute. It’s his opinion. The fact is no one is going to lose their life for Kapernick’s silent protest, but if nothing is done to fix an apparent problem in law enforcement many more WILL lose their lives.
I do applaud the NFL for – thus far- supporting players’ rights to the first amendment. But if you are one of those people making fun instead of taking note of the message behind Mr. Kapernick and his fellow players seriously – just hope that you will one day will have the right to take a stance for what you believe without ridicule.
In case you were wondering – I am not a 49ers fan just a fan of free speech (Go Giants!)
About the Author:
Shakira M. Brown is a 13 time award-winning PR and Marketing expert and the Managing Principal and CEO of SMB Strategic Media LLC (http://pradviser.net), a boutique communications firm specializing in providing affordable public relations, branding, content development, social media management and search engine optimization for small and middle market businesses. Her firm also offers three month One-on-One Private Intensive Brand Coaching to small business owners wishing to take their brands to the next level affordably. Shakira, also known as The Small Biz Whisperer and hosts a weekly podcast titled, the Moment Masters Show available on iTunes and Google Play. She is also the co-founder of Growth & Success Con, a one day conference premiering in March 2017 featuring over 20 small business experts to help small business learn the skills they need in one place. For more information visit http://growthsuccesscon.com.