Digital Illustration by @K_DougDE
The actions of Colin Kaepernick have not been any less than courageous. The former San Francisco 49ers football player risked his entire livelihood to stand firmly for something he seen as being unconstitutional and just flat out not right in society during our time period. He reminds me of another athlete by the name of John Carlos. You may or may not recognize his name but I can guarantee you recognize a historical picture featuring him.
Photography provided by Huffington Post
Carlos is the man you see in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics standing on the podium, wearing a metal around his neck all while rising his fist. Alongside him is Tommie Smith, another African American athlete raising his fist as well. The reason I have selected Kaepernick for today’s #DEBlackHistory topic of sports is because his activism is very similar to what Carlos and Smith once did with their own sports careers back in the 60s. Carlos’ reasoning for raising his fist was to show that he did not believe in what the National Anthem spoke on, along with his disapproval for the prison system at that time period. Kaepernick’s stand is no different, just during a different time period.
“The first thing I thought was the shackles have been broken.” – John Carlos
When Carlos says shackles in the quote above, he’s referring to something we touched on briefly a while back with the creation of Imprisonment during days 14 and 15 of #The100DayProject challenge last year (this particular painting is still currently for sale via Paypal or in person at The SAND Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland if anyone reading is interested in purchasing). Imprisonment is a visual depiction of the documentary film 13th on Netflix, which was one of the primary reasons for John Carlos’ fist raise at the Olympics over 50 years ago. Just like we can see in today’s time, any protests or disagreements against the playing of the National Anthem were not only frowned upon, but also dangerous for those voicing their concerns through freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Before John Carlos decided to go forth with this act of defiance, Jesse Owens was sent in by the Olympics committee to try and convince anyone planning to participate not to do anything out of the norm to disrupt the view of the competition but it didn’t work. After it was done, Caucasians in the stands were seen throwing objects, using racial slurs and physical violence, all because of a raised fist that was thrown up to show solidarity for equality. Once the Olympics’ hype ended, Carlos had to face the real world in which did not show solidarity. Running alone was not enough to get food on the table and roof over your head back during those times, and Carlos was finding it very hard to find anyone who would employ him after his protest. Not only was finding work hard enough, Carlos’ family had to deal with constant harassment from the press and everyone else around them who didn’t believe that the National Anthem was of any harm to anyone. This rocked his marriage as well, ultimately ending it. His children were affected by this also on a constant basis while attending school from other students whom may have had parents or guardians around who would show and teach them to not support what Carlos’ had done.
Photography provided by Kaepernick Store
Doesn’t this all sound very familiar and similar to the controversy involving Colin Kaepernick’s going on right now? Right now Kaepernick is a free agent of the National Football League after his refusal to stand for the National Anthem this past season, but he has not currently been picked up by any team in the league, which is almost identical to Carlos not being able to find employment after the 68′ Olympics. He has also faced multiple threats and cyber attacks for bringing attention to constant police brutality of African Americans and people of color that has gone on within the last five years, again identical to the same headships as Carlos & his family. One could say that Colin Kaepernick himself is a repeat of history. Even though there have been some hardships for Kaepernick in the last couple of years, he has not allowed this to stop his activism in striving for equality. Kaepernick has pledged to donate millions towards oppressed communities, along with setting up the Know Your Rights Camp to campaign for higher education, self empowerment, and instructions on how to properly interact with law enforcement.
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