Conscious Cornerbacks

On August 26, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to sit during the national anthem before a game against the Green Bay Packers. By taking a seat, Kaepernick took this stand to bring awareness to the social injustices done to African Americans here in the United States.

Kaepernick’s action created a lot of controversy. Those who oppose his decision state it is unpatriotic and disrespectful to those serving the United States’ military and their families, as well as the police.

Sharieff Reed, a sophomore at SMC who plays cornerback for the football team, has decided to follow Kaepernick's example and has also been taking a knee during the national anthem before his games.

“I support Kaepernick. I support what he is standing for, and I agree with him. A flag is supposed to represent us as a people, as Americans, but how can you support a flag that doesn’t really support you?” Reed said. “Until something changes, I’m taking the knee.”

Terrance Ware Jr., the president of Associated Students Board of Directors, has also chosen to protest in his own way, remaining seated while the pledge of allegiance is being recited during the Board of Trustees meetings.

“Personally, I’d like if the entire team took a knee. I’d like it if all of our teams took a knee,” said Ware. “I do 100 percent believe in this movement. I do believe we have to take a stand. It bothers me that racial relations have always been an issue in this country."

Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles, Ware is an active supporter of local rallies and protests, and has recently been involved with Black Lives Matter.

As with Kaepernick, Reed’s actions were not directed at those serving the army and veterans, but the thousands of black lives who suffer from racism, prejudice, and profiling.

According to the Washington Post, 381 African Americans were killed by police in 2015, 50 of whom were unarmed. At the height of tensions over the stop and frisk law in New York City, 2,017,478 New Yorkers were stopped by police from 2010-2013 before the law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. Of those stopped, 52 percent were African American and 88 percent of all those stopped were innocent, according to the NYCLU.

“It’s not really a shot towards the army. I support what [Kaepernick] is doing and I have a cousin that went to West Point and then served in Afghanistan. It’s really just us standing up for what we believe is right,” said Reed.

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, the liberal leaning Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who was appointed under Bill Clinton, expressed negativity towards Kaepernick, telling Katie Couric his actions were “dumb and disrespectful” and even compared it to the burning of the flag.

Carnell Lewis, a 21-year-old SMC student from North Carolina who is also a sophomore cornerback, called Kaepernick’s protest “iconic.” Although Lewis is currently injured and unable to play, he still takes a knee during the anthem.

In response to Ginsburg’s comments, Lewis said, “That is disrespectful because first of all, she is not in that position. She wouldn’t know how we feel ethically, because she is not African American.”

Lewis was not the only one who viewed Bader-Ginsberg's comment as inappropriate. In the SMC’s Athletics Department, Dr. Cedric Hackett, an athletic counselor for the sixteen sports teams at SMC and also Professor of Pan African studies at CSU Northridge, gave his opinion on Bader-Ginsberg's stance.

“While everybody has a right to express their views, she is in a position of authority, who makes rules and laws, and for her to say ‘dumb’ and compare it to the burning of the flag is a very dangerous statement,” Hackett said. “Especially for folks who traditionally vilify and bring stereotypes to communities of color, in particular African Americans.”

Race relations have been a divisive issue throughout the history of this country. According to Dr. Hackett, sports are an equalizer when it comes to race relations.

“There is an entertainment component to it. Because of who we are and where we are in this country, in terms of institutional bias in racism and discrimination being embedded in the fabric of this country, sports are kind of a way to escape from that," Hackett said.

AS President Ware hopes to clarify the objectives of the protests, as well as shoot down a common criticism of civil rights movements.

“As African Americans, I’d like to say, we are not trying to be superior. We are not trying to not be oppressed, so we can take over. That’s not what we are trying to do,” said Ware. “We just want to be treated as equals. It’s not that we want to be better than anybody. We just want to be treated the same as everyone else."