We’re All Probably Going To Be Colin Kaepernick At Some Point.
Quick question: What would you do if someone offered you nearly $20 million?
And yes. Yes, there are strings attached, but it’s $20 million! You can pay off all your debt and your mom/dad/grandma/grandpa’s, too! Buy that house! Get a new car! Be a role model! Have stuff with your face and name on it! Be famous! Pay the kids’ college tuition in cash money so they can make it rain on the admissions office and graduate debt free while they accept their degree in astrophysics, then shimmy, cartwheel, and dab across the stage with the dean!
Would you take it? Who wouldn’t, right?!
If you watch football, or even if you don’t and just happen to be alive right now, you’ve probably heard of Colin Kaepernick.
Colin got that dream deal. (It was actually even better when he first signed it, but that’s a long story.)
And while he doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring, he did lead the San Francisco 49ers to two NFC championships and one Super Bowl matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. Coming out of the 2016–17 NFL season, the (now) former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was worth $19.4 million.
Meanwhile, Philando Castile, a Midwesterner like Kap, and Alton Sterling were becoming the 449th and 453rd police-involved killings of 2016 — all against the backdrop of a Presidential campaign gone entirely off the rails. The next President didn’t mind inflaming communities of color. The next President not only glossed over the deaths of Castile and Alton, but he blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for the deaths of several officers killed during a demonstration in Dallas, TX, reinforcing a false and dangerous divide between people and police. He’d even go so far as to call for a Muslim ban in the summer of 2016.
So, around this time last year, Colin took a knee. Not a boisterous knee. A quiet knee. In fact, it was such a quiet protest that, at first, people didn’t even notice it was happening. But when the questions finally came, Colin didn’t flinch:
“This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”
In response, more than a few NFL executives trashed Kaepernick behind closed doors, calling him a “traitor” and comparing the front office outrage to feelings about Rae Carruth, an ex-NFL star who was convicted of murder. Shortly thereafter, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also joined the fray, saying: “We believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL.” (Never mind #VeteransForKaepernick.)
So, now, in spite of $20 million, Kap kept taking a knee — and that’s the most important part of this story. Because, right now, Colin Kaepernick is out of a job. Even Jay Cutler — whose wife had to convince him to accept an offer to come out of retirement — will be suiting up soon as quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. The start of the NFL preseason is well underway yet Colin Kaepernick hasn’t even been invited to stretch or practice — let alone play — in the 2017–18 NFL season.
And it’s all over a knee.
If we’re being perfectly honest, many of us would probably agree to shut up and stay quiet for a whole (whole) lot less money. Let’s take it even further. I’m certain most of us, at least once in our work lives, whether working a six-figure salaried job with benefits or barely making tips and commission have already made some major sacrifices.
Make no mistake about it, our Make It Work family knows sacrifice. Shenell fought through her worsening asthma to keep her job and lost it anyway. Katie had to go back to work two weeks after giving birth to her premature son. Rochean worked full-time, went to school full-time, then got a raise that put her pennies out of reach of child care assistance. Carmella’s family has been tag-teaming elder care because the costs of care — or losing a job to take time to care — are just too high. Electra would go in early, stay late, and squeeze in her prenatal appointments around her barely-over-minimum-wage job so she didn’t have to ask for any extra leave. Jasmine is still working three and four (and sometimes five!) jobs to provide for her daughter and finish her degree.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have left some part of ourselves at home. We’ve swallowed a lot of humble pie, ground a lot of teeth down to pebbles, saved a lot of excellent comebacks and epic “I quit!” viral videos to the draft folder, cut hair we’d been growing for years, worked on a holy day we would’ve preferred to observe with our faith community rather than the office stairwell, laughed way too hard or sprinted down a hallway to avoid an inappropriate pass or comment — all to keep a job.
We’ve done it because, frankly, we need the money. Our families need us to keep making said money. We don’t have a $20 million deal on the table, but other times — like, probably definitely the times we’re living in right this very moment — we’re going to need to take a knee.
In an age of wall-building and travel-banning that are both still active conversations this far into 2017(!), ICE raids that are giving even ICE agents pause, open calls for police brutality from the Commander-in-Chief, massive voter purges, and chilling crackdowns on whistleblowers — we have to say out loud what our values are.
What’s worth the knee? What’s worth our opposition in our communities or on our jobs? Will we have the integrity to resist when it matters most?
This is not a call to go looking for trouble. It is a gentle reminder that we’ve all sacrificed plenty to make ends meet. Now, the times may demand we get in some good trouble if the circumstances require.
By: JT Johnson