“If you don’t love our country, get the f**k out of it,” a white fan says to Black freedom fighters.
In the wake of San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest against social injustice and police brutality, responses from the nation’s public diverse. A lot of people have praised the athlete for doing what’s right and standing up for the Black people, while some have criticized and insulted him. Some have even gone as far as burning his jerseys, with the Anthem playing in the backgrounds.
What kind of message are fans trying to pass by doing this? The burning of jerseys has been popular for the past 6-7 years, following the exit of LeBron James from Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat. It caused an outrage from fans of the Ohio team, and some of them reacted by burning his jerseys. The same happened when Jason Heyward, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, and Julius Peppers all decided to change teams.
In a peaceful protest against the deep-seated problem of racism in America, Kaepernick and later other black freedom fighters from the world of sport sat and kneeled during the Anthem. He has also stated his reasons for doing what he did, and those reasons are completely valid. As for the fans burning his jerseys, what are they trying to say? It seems, speaking out against police brutality and racism will always provoke aggression. In a video posted on Instagram, a white man lit the 49ers quarterback’s jersey, as the national anthem played in the background. “If you don’t love our country, get the f**k out of it,” the man said as he grabbed a lighter to burn the jersey.
It could be stated that jerseys are effigies and burning the jerseys of Black athletes only leaves a bad taste. Following the history of black effigies strung from trees to simulate a lynching, we see that white supremacists have used this method to portray racial hatred and intimidate African-Americans. In the 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan used effigies to frighten Black voters.
Various Black athletes have seen their jerseys burned down by angry fans. But, white athletes, who have committed several transgressions, have never come under such intense scrutiny. Both Jerry Sandusky’s and Riley Cooper’s jerseys weren’t burned for repeated sexual assault of children and hurling racial slurs at a Kenny Chesney concert respectively.
If Kaepernick’s peaceful demonstration of his discontent towards the treatment of Black Americans was deemed unpatriotic, then what could be said about burning the effigy of a Black man with the National Anthem blaring in the background?