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GQ’s choice for ‘Citizen of the Year’ helps to reclaim taking a knee


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Earlier this month, GQ named American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick “Citizen of the Year” for actions on the field that went far beyond football. Since mid-2016, Kaepernick has faced backlash and praise for taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of systemic oppression in the U.S., more specifically with police brutality toward the black community. GQ’s decision in awarding Kaepernick with this title exemplifies proper media attention on a sports icon effectively using their platform.

The beginnings of this silent protest began in a preseason game in August 2016 when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand as the national anthem blared.

“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 said in an post-game interview with NFL Media.

A little over a year after Kaepernick’s initial action, other teams and players have joined the conversation through variations of peaceful protest: from kneeling, refusing to stand, remaining in locker rooms during the anthem and interlocking arms as a sign of unity. Participation was seen from teams like New Orleans Saints, the New York Jets, The Seattle Seahawks, the Tennessee Titans and many more.

The waves of the Take a Knee movement hit President Donald Trump as he took to Twitter express disdain with a tirade of tweets bashing the NFL’s leadership and their contribution to the “disrespect” of the nation.

“Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL,” Trump tweeted last month.

This tweet comes after a series of disapproving tweets from the President on the subject. The rhetoric of the movement then shifted from peaceful resistance to a deflective conversation concerning nationalism and respect.

Kaepernick’s “Citizen of the Year” award and cover from GQ highlights an recapture of a hijacked conversation that, once more, reinforced toxic ignorance of the plights of oppressed groups in the U.S.

GQ hammers the last nail in the coffin with symbolic photospreads of Kaepernick in the streets with Harlem’s men, women and children– mirroring Muhammad Ali’s protest of the Vietnam War in the ‘60s.

It took only one moment August 2016 to ignite a fire in a franchise with a platform wide enough to initiate change. The foundation of the protest acts to recognize the injustices of a country create progress; it is not disrespectful or un-American.

Kaepernick and protesting NFL players are setting the tone for other icons in the spotlight to use their platform to speak out and act. And unlike the President, GQ works to feature this imperative dialogue.

“We don’t need a movement full of experts. We need people who care deeply to stand up and offer what they have because there’s a role for everyone,” Carmen Perez, executive director of nonprofit The Gathering For Justice said in the GQ issue. “You make music? Make some for the movement. You cook? Organizers need to bed. You teach self-defense or yoga? Help people heal. You’re an athlete? Use your platform to raise awareness.”

Perez highlights the next course of action for media icons. But who’s next? Stars in Hollywood? Politicians? Musicians? Who will be next at the plate as nation watches?  

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GQ’s choice for ‘Citizen of the Year’ helps to reclaim taking a knee