During the summer, there were protests in the city of Atlanta following the deaths of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling. Current Georgia State football players Penny Hart, Aaron Winchester, Bryan Williams and Taz Bateman took to the streets to not only protest the deaths of Castile, and Sterling, but over all of the injustices that African-Americans face on a daily basis.
“It was amazing to be able to see how passionate everybody was about what was going on, and how everyone really just needed to grieve over the situation because a lot of people are tired from everything that’s going on, and that it could happen to us was really eye opening to see how many people cared,” Hart said.
On Aug. 26 in a game against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down during the national anthem, and a week later he decided to take knee.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick changed his protest to taking a knee during the national anthem instead of actually sitting down. Many people were up in arms about this and the backlash that he faced has in a way justified his peaceful protest. Kaepernick has said on multiple occasions that he has received death threats ,according to CNN.
The story hits home with the Georgia State football team as well. Hart mentioned it could very well happen to him, and he is in full support of Kaepernick.
“I really feel like he’s doing something that he truly believes in, and that’s great to see,” Hart said. “You know him making strides peacefully in a movement that collectively gets other people to peacefully protest, and get other people to understand what is going on right now, so I appreciate everything that he’s doing because it’s opening a lot of eyes.”
Hart went on to say that he would be in support of the on growing movement, but he is aware of the backlash that could soon follow from previous experience.
“I took a lot of backlash during the protest. People were saying that my cause was completely different from what other people may be, and not even knowing what I was trying to do a lot of people were trying to criticize me for what I was doing and my teammates,” Hart said. “People who weren’t aware and don’t understand the situation, they see it as disrespect to their country, and a disruption to everything that is going on and if you aren’t aware or aren’t knowledgeable of the situation then that is how you are going to see it.”
Williams does support Kaepernick and respects his right to protest, but would not do it the same way.
“Personally, I don’t think I would do this because I feel like the people in our service are owed some type of respect, but if he believes in it, I support his idea,” Williams said. “I don’t see it as disrespectful because obviously it’s a free country that we live in, he can exercise his rights, it’s just something that I wouldn’t do.”
One player who did not participate in the march, but does support Kaepernick, is tight end Keith Rucker. Rucker is biracial, and he said it’s a hard balance sometimes with situations like this. Not all situations involve race, but a lot of them do.
“I hate when I’m trying to take one side and they tell me that I can’t. So I mainly sit in the middle and try to observe,” Rucker said.
Cam Newton, who was once very vocal on issues in the black community, has since said America “is beyond that as a nation,” according to his interview in GQ magazine. Players are even losing endorsements over this issue. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall lost two of his endorsement deals for taking a knee in the season opening game against Newton’s Panthers.
Shortly after the game, CenturyLink issued a statement explaining the termination of Marshall’s endorsement deal.
“We completely respect Brandon Marshall’s personal decision and right to take an action to support something in which he strongly believes. America is anchored in the right of individuals to express their beliefs. While we acknowledge Brandon’s rights, we also believe that whatever issues we face we also occasionally must stand together to show our allegiance to our common bond as a nation. In our, the national anthem is one of those moments. For this reason, while we wish Brandon the best this season, we are politely terminating our agreement with him,” according to CenturyLink’s website.
A youth football team in Texas, comprised of 11-and -12 year old middle schoolers have received death threats, according to the Bleacher Report. The Beaumont Bulls senior still persevered despite the death threats, and having their coach being suspended for the season still continued to take a knee in protest.