San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was spotted sitting out during the national anthem in a preseason game. He wasn’t doing it for personal attention, it wasn’t even the first time he’d done so, it was just the first time it was noticed. And when asked about it, he had plenty to say. Since then, many fellow football players and other pro athletes have shown support and/or solidarity.
Last week, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry said that he “applauds” Kaepernick for bringing awareness to racial injustice and hopes that Kaepernick’s actions won’t become about what pose he takes during the anthem, but instead actually advance the conversation surrounding the issue. A conversation that often gets ignored due to a national debate about his actions, or lack thereof.
More recently, Kevin Durant weighed in, saying that he’s “behind anyone who stands up for what they believe in.” Admiring Kaepernick for unapologetically exercising his right to freedom of speech, Durant noted that Kaepernick was not being disrespectful.
“As athletes, we have this huge platform. A lot of people are watching at all times. Sometimes it may not be what you do, they like. But if you feel like it’s gonna be impactful, that’s on you. I feel like everyone should stand up for what they believe.”
Not all athletes or fans will agree with Durant. It’s likely that a lot of athletes fear speaking out on these issues because of possible fan and endorsement blowback, among other personal factors involved with choosing whether to speak out. Also, many fans want athletes to stay silent about social issues because it’s easier for them to like a player when they don’t know what they stand for.
Curry and Durant weighed in and opened themselves up to criticism, but I ultimately believe they did the right thing by speaking out. Which, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, is their right. Both players command high-profile attention, and thus, their voices are important to bring further awareness to social-political issues.
What interests me, though, is whether they will be willing to put their money where their mouths are. When the season starts, will we see Curry, Durant, or any of the Warriors kneel in solidarity during the anthem, as so many other athletes are doing? Or any other NBA teams? It’s one thing to say that you support someone, but it’s another to open yourself up to backlash by acting in support of that person. Only time will tell.