The introduction of political protests in sports for many Americans began when San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting during the National Anthem on August 26, 2016. When pressed on this decision, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand for the anthem of a flag for a nation that oppresses people of color.” His decision to sit and kneel during the Anthem, as well as Kaepernick’s decision to wear socks depicting police officers as pigs, were two means of the quarterback’s stance against police brutality against African-Americans.
Despite his absence, more players joined Kaepernick’s symbolic protest during the 2017-18 NFL season, with the hash tag #TakeAKnee trending during certain games. The backlash was swift and harsh on the league, but no one can deny the effective nature of this political protest.
Now the NBA’s players and coaches are getting in on the action by speaking out against the current administration’s position on immigration. Basketball hasn’t felt the economic pressure football’s seen, but time will tell if this new protest carries negative repercussions.
What can’t be denied is that in both cases, athletes were using their positions of prominence to speak on issues they considered important. Even more crucial is that any athlete who chooses to speak on an issue or engage in a protest has the absolute right to do so thanks to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A reality many Americans seem to overlook is athletes using their prominence to speak on passionate causes is arguably as old as the nation itself. A cursory Google search shows Roman Gladiators using their status to make a case for causes they found passionate.
I would delve into more history, but unfortunately I’m not a sports historian or expert.
Luckily, Southern Fried Radio has someone who brings that value to the network. And I’m delighted to announce a collaboration with Michael Shibley, host of “Man in the Arena,” where we’ll discuss sports, protests, how athletes use their positions of influence to discuss issues they find important, why their speech is protected by the First Amendment, and the social consequences of their protests.
The major domo of Southern Fried Radio will serve as moderator for this discussion to keep Michael and I on track.
I can’t stress how excited I am for this broadcast. It’s one time where the Sit Down puts aside the conservatarian perspective and actively works to make listeners smarter.
Stay tuned for details on when you can hear this highly topical discussion.