Like many sports fans, I have spent the last year plus following the story of Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback who refused to stand for the National Anthem because of his view that minorities in America are oppressed.
I’m not writing to condemn or applaud Kaepernick today, but I will admit I did not support his actions. While his actions regarding the National Anthem offended me, I did not fully understand why until last weekend.
It kind of hit me when I was watching the Little League World Series. At a time in America where race relations and politics have reached a boiling point, my reaction to those who won’t stand for the National Anthem made sense to me.
During introductions of the U.S. championship game between a team from North Carolina and a team from Texas, one thing that stuck out is how diverse America is. But as the teams from the United States were introduced, they had white players, black players and Hispanic players. Yet on the field, they were one unit. There was no race, no animosity, just team.
And at that moment I understood. While some may say and believe Kaepernick was taking a swipe at America or even the troops that defend our country, the reason I was offended was far different. I didn’t like what Kaepernick started and others have since started doing not for political reasons. The actions offended me because they disrespected sports.
Sporting events are supposed to be an escape from reality. When you are watching your favorite team, whether it’s Page High School or the Dallas Cowboys, you are treated to a few hours where skin color is irrelevant, whoever is president doesn’t matter, where for a few hours all that matters are the people on the field.
When Kaepernick kneeled for the National Anthem, he took that innocence away. Sports in general and the NFL in particular were no longer an escape. We were forced to consider racism, politics, hatred and all the other things we were trying to escape from.
I played sports for most of my life, and I can promise you for the vast majority who play, there is no race on a team.
Your teammate is your brother or your sister and you work side by side for a common goal. If your team is talented enough you may reach that goal. Most of us never do. But the hours in the gym and on the court or field, make a team grow as one. In sports, the team is greater than anything else.
Just ask those kids from North Carolina or Texas or even Japan or Mexico. What they accomplished as a team is greater than any of them could have alone. And in doing so there was no black or white or brown.
Those 11-13 year old boys embraced what so many love about sports. And in doing so, they did more for race relations than Kaepernick ever will.