DENVER -- On August 26th, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sent the sports world into a frenzy by sitting during the national anthem before the 49ers' preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. The protest was to bring awareness of the injustices against people of color in the United States of America have endured, and have continued to endure, while forcing America to realize that the discriminatory nature of the police force has continued for far too long. He explained his protest:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "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 getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
Kaepernick's protest is no longer breaking news but what is more important is the impact his protest has on the lives of all Americans. The reach of Kaepernick's protests is unquantifiable and has led to crucially important dialogue that Americans have avoided for far too long. Regardless of which side of the fence you align yourself with, Kaepernick's protest has started a conversation that aids a better understanding of each other as humans. While his protest has been interpreted in many different ways, it has started a revolution in the world of sports that has touched seemingly every age demographic and every type of sport.
The New York City Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and the Indiana Fever players of the WNBA were fined for wearing clothing that expressed support for the Black Lives Matter organization as well as the wrongly deceased Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers who had lost their lives abruptly via sniper fire at a Black Lives Matter protest. The Liberty's own Tanisha Wright, who won the WNBA Championship with the Seattle Storm in 2010, among other players on the Liberty roster, decided they would no longer take questions from a basketball sense but will be happy to discuss their protest. Wright had this to say:
We feel like America has a problem with the police brutality that’s going on with black lives around here, and we just want to use our voices and use our platform to advocate for that,” said Wright. “Just because someone says ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter. People put out this imaginary ‘black lives only matter’ whenever people say, ‘Black lives matter.’ What we’re saying is, ‘Black lives matter, too.’ Period.
We really would appreciate if people stopped making our support of Black Lives Matter, an issue that is so critical in our society right now, as us not supporting the police,” added Cash. “There’s a lot of women in this room right now, in the WNBA, who have family members who are in law enforcement... People need to understand that it’s not mutually exclusive. You can support both things.
Wright's teammate, Tina Charles, had accepted her WNBA player of the month award with her warmups turned inside out and posted this to Instagram:
Brandon Marshall, of the Denver Broncos, has followed Kaepernick's lead and began taking a knee during the anthem. Even though his sponsorships are dissipating, Marshall will remain protesting until he decides that it is no longer needed. Marshall has met with Denver's Police Chief, Robert C. White, and has agreed to ride along with officers in Denver and to put himself through the police "shoot-or-don't-shoot" course.
This protest has reached from professional sports through all age demographics. Castlemont High School in Oakland, CA was visited by Kaepernick after the football team had kneeled for the national anthem with their fists raised in the air. This is what Kaepernick told the high schoolers before their game:
I had to come support you all, because the same way you all took a stand and stood with me, I had to come out here and stand with you all," Kaepernick told the players. "So I appreciate what you all did. I love you all. You all are my brothers, I'm here with you.
...you are important, you make a difference, this matters. Everything you do matters.
The NBA and its players are no strangers to the racial injustices and the protests stemming from the issues. Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul started out the ESPYs with a well thought-out and transparent take on the issues of policing with the perspective of someone colored in America. Click play below for the entire speech.
With so many different outlets and people speaking out on this issue it is only natural that protesting was a theme of the Denver Nuggets media day. Josh Kroenke, as well as multiple players, were asked a group of questions that revolved around protesting racial injustice. Kroenke had a great quote when describing his feelings on the potential protesting.
Clearly there are some serious issues facing our society today. I think that throughout history, athletes, they have done a great job to bring awareness to certain social issues and that is what you are seeing today. I think that as far as the Pepsi Center and the Nuggets are concerned, I think we will continue playing the national anthem and honor our military the way we always have but we will also respect our athletes constitutional right to freedom of speech, which is a pillar of our great union of the United States of America.
Malone also made sure he spoke his mind on the subject by jumping into the conversation the second that Kroenke was finished speaking. To preface Malone's quotes it is important to know that he had applied to train for the Secret Service and was on the path of becoming a Michigan State Trooper before choosing to go after coaching.
Only thing I'll add to that is this has been an ongoing discussion with what is going on in our country, obviously, but aside from the protests one thing we really want to do is try to initiate conversation within the community.
It is one thing to protest but let's try to find a solution locally and get conversation going so we can kind of get communities to start working together and build those bonds of trust that are not there right now and if we can get that going then I think that is the more important issue.
The anthem is one thing and we will respect their freedom of speech as Josh said but let's take it a step further and find a way to help the situation and that is a goal of all of ours to stimulate that conversation to get communities and law enforcement working together and trying to get that trust back that we so dearly need.
The one Nuggets player who had a good amount to say about these issues was Jameer Nelson. His thoughts on the issues he faces daily were eye-opening. He shared this with us at media day:
I have a 15-year-old son that will be driving and so I am scared for him. I don't know. He is a kid. He could do something wrong when driving. What is going to happen? I don't know. I just don't understand a lot of what is going on because I am not that family involved but like I said. I fear driving on the road. It's just human nature.
I am an African-American man who grew up in the hood. So I've always had a fear when I see a cop driving behind me whether or not my car was legal. Whatever. Whether I have license or no license. Now, things are, obviously, like I said, magnified because of social media but we have to do some type of something. We have to bring awareness to it.
It seems as if the Denver Nuggets, from top to bottom, are respectful of the fact that people may have feelings that differ from their own. For Josh Kroenke and Michael Malone to display their desire to understand and communicate should be a lesson for us all. They each came from entirely different upbringings but both can, and want to, sit down and start to create a dialogue that will further the understanding of each other.
At the same time, you have to really listen to Nelson's words, really read deeper. No one should ever have to live a life in a completely different way than the person sitting next to them based off the color of their skin. To hear Jameer Nelson explain how he fears for his 15-year-old son and his life once he begins driving was sobering for all who had the chance to listen. The Denver Nuggets are a melting pot unlike any other team. Maybe the rest of the country should follow the path of grace and respect the Nuggets have shown thus far.