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NFL star Colin Kaepernick is front page news

MAKING HEADLINES: Colin Kaepernick

WHEN SPORTS people have a view to share on society, the world gets very uncomfortable. But more often than not, the world also listens.

NFL star Colin Kaepernick has been front page news in the USA over the last couple of weeks, after refusing to stand for the American national anthem. His reason? He is using his position of profile, as a sports star, to protest against the treatment of black people in the US.

The levels of hate and vitriol the San Francisco 49ers quarterback has received as a result has been incredible. Many have called him unpatriotic and disrespectful of those willing to die for their county. And recent articles have even suggested that his actions should lead to the end of his career in the NFL.

On the flip side, some military veterans have pledged their support for the american footballers’ stand by creating the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick. Meanwhile, the #BlackLivesMatter campaign has once again been visible to the world.

Kaepernick has also donated $1million to community organisations and said he will continue to sit out the anthem until he sees improvements in US race relations.

All I can say is… Wow! What a guy. This, for me, is the ultimate in athlete activism.

But why should I be so impressed? Shocked even. In my day to day life I meet people with strong views about the world. People who make a stand against injustice every day of their lives. People who given their time and money towards causes. These people are rich, poor, black, white. They are, well, just people.

And this is my point. Kaepernick is a human being. He also happens to play sport pretty well. Just like many of us he gets angry about issues in society - and I am delighted he is willing to go further than most. This guy is actually doing something.

Maybe the real eye opener here is a sports person with profile, power and money being seen to be putting it all on the line for an issue he could easily side step and continue with a very comfortable life.

His 49ers team mate, Eric Reid, has since joined Kaepernick’s protest by sitting out the anthem. I wonder how many others will stand with them now? If two sports stars can get the world talking, a larger group could make change a reality.

Leon Mann is a broadcaster and journalist

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