49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been praised and reviled in recent weeks for his symbolic refusal to stand at attention during the customary pre-game playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick cited what he labeled the song’s inherent racism and pro-slavery lyrics. Many wondered if Kaepernick’s actions had done much good. His high profile certainly lent the issue a platform, but “The Star-Spangled Banner” hasn’t been excised from the pre-game ritual of major pro sports, so was it worth it?
Sometimes a stone thrown in a pond causes ripples — that’s a lesson activists the world over understand and count on. This week the San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York said the team would give $1 million to local organizations with boots on the ground combating inequality and improving race relations in the Bay Area community. Many see the action as an indirect (if not direct) result of Kaepernick’s protest — the $1 million dollars rippling out from a courageous quarterback’s symbolic personal stand to the not symbolic streets where it can do some good. Kaepernick said his protest was meant to “stand with the people that are being oppressed.” The 49ers’ $1 million is meant to stand with them too. Kaepernick also, separately, pledged a $1 million to fund similar groups.