What This Viral Meme Gets Wrong About a Quarterback's National Anthem Protest

August 29th 2016

San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit out the National Anthem in protest of police brutality is unsurprisingly drawing a fierce backlash on social media, with a bulk of the dissatisfaction being expressed through memes.

One popular meme compares Kaepernick to a former NFL player and U.S. soldier to dismiss his protest as insignificant and unpatriotic.

Glen Coffee, who is the same age as Kaepernick, was a running back with the 49ers for one season before he quit football in 2010 and joined the U.S. Army soon after. Last year, Coffee talked to The Washington Post about his decision to quit football.

“I got to high school, and I played because my friends played, and then when I realized that I was good enough for college, at that point it was to get school paid for. And I still had a year left to play at ’Bama, but I didn’t come back because I didn’t want to play football anymore. So I figured if I got paid to play football, I would tolerate it. So I got to the NFL and I got the money, and it was mo’ money, mo’ problems, pretty much. And I found out it wasn’t for me.”

Although Coffee's decision to leave football is admirable, this meme tries to use his service to silence another black athlete's protest.

Regardless of the opinions on the method Kaepernick used to protest inequality, he has the right to do so, and it's a very "American" choice.

American revolutionaries famously protested British taxes, eventually moving toward a full scale war for Independence from the British government.

The meme references Kaepernick's multi-million dollar NFL salary as a way to invalidate his positions. The idea being that Kaepernick is successful and so he shouldn't complain about racism. However, one individual's success does not negate racism.

ATTN: previously reported about the racial disparities in the NFL. Black general managers and black head coaches make up a small percentage of the NFL's management, although 70 percent of the players are black, according to a report from Uptown Magazine.

Similarly the election of President Barack Obama, the first black president, did not lead to a "post-racial" America, evidenced by the recent racial unrest and police shootings Kaepernick is trying keep in the spotlight.

Native Americas, Black people, and Latinos are all disproportionately more likely to be shot and killed by the police. They also search black drivers more often, even though police find less illegal material with black drivers than white drivers, according to The Washington Post.

The meme also states that Kaepernick didn't stand because the flag "oppresses black people." The implication being that black people are not oppressed and therefore Kaepernick has no reason to protest.

Telling Kaepernick that he doesn't have the right to speak out about racism or that racism doesn't exist is a form of racism.

P.J Henry from New York University wrote about the definition of modern racism. He said an important aspect is silencing black people's complaints.

"Modern racism is a form of prejudice against African-Americans that developed in the United States after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It is characterized by beliefs that racism is not a continuing problem, that African-Americans should not put forth their own efforts to overcome their situation in society without special assistance, and that African-Americans are too demanding and have gotten more than they deserve."

Other Athletes have made important political statements about race.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists at the 1968 Olympics. Wikimedia Commons/By Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publishers) - wikimedia.org

In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised the black power fist during their medal ceremony to protest racial inequality in the U.S.

RELATED: Chart Reveals the Problem With the Definition of Racism

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