Colin Kaepernick’s first two ”protests” drew scant attention. He sat on the bench Alex Killorn Jersey Kids , out of uniform, virtually unnoticed. His third got some buzz after a reporter tweeted a picture of the 49ers bench that had nothing to do with the quarterback but caught him in the frame, sitting during the national anthem.
Meanwhile, the killing of a 12-year-old boy by police and the light it shined on the Black Lives Matter movement helped draw a reluctant LeBron James into the world of using sports as a vehicle for social change. But once he got there, James stayed disciplined both about the message he sends and the way he sends it.
Despite their vastly divergent methods, Kaepernick and James helped set a stake in the ground, declaring to athletes across all sports that their platforms could be – should be – used for more than fun and games in the 21st century.
Kaepernick’s message – ”organic” to some, ”disorganized” to others – started a movement that has essentially linked the NFL with kneeling in a dramatic string of events that will play out for a final time this season, Sunday at the Super Bowl. James has also made an imprint thanks to the power of his own brand. Whose method worked better? The answer to that question figures to guide the direction of sports protests for the foreseeable future.
”Kaepernick didn’t go into it knowing what was going to happen. He was doing what he thought was right but this was not something he expected,” said professor Danielle Coombs of Kent State, who specializes in the politics of sports. ”On the other hand, you have athletes, like LeBron James, who make sure they do it in a way that lets the message rise to the top.”
Coombs and David Casillo co-authored a paper in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues centered on James, whose precise, calculated brand of activism pressed for change, but in a way that would not negatively affect the bottom line.
Two years before Kaepernick Youth Jake McCabe Jersey , and two decades after the seemingly apolitical Michael Jordan once reportedly said Republicans buy shoes, too, James found himself in the middle of a firestorm in the wake of the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
James said very little about the killing, which occurred only miles from his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He took heat for his reluctance. But over the ensuing years, he branched out slowly and cautiously, and sometimes with others at his side. He joined Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade at the 2016 ESPYs and gave a well-received speech calling for an end to gun violence.
The speech was a well-thought-out, well-organized message timed for maximum impact, as was Steph Curry’s impassioned defense of the stance that Kaepernick and others had taken on issues ranging from sitting during the national anthem, to the importance of showing team unity to foregoing White House visits.
”If I’m going to use my platform, I don’t want to just be noise,” Curry wrote in a Veterans Day blog on The Players’ Tribune website. ”I want to talk about real issues that are affecting real people.”
The methods Curry and James use for getting out the message were almost the exact opposite of Kaepernick’s. Turns out, Kaepernick made more headlines, but also became more vulnerable to his message getting lost or distorted due to the timing and some of his own self-inflicted sideshows .
Some may say that by not being calculating and by playing from the heart, Kaepernick sent a truer message. He also backed it up by raising $1 million for charity – much coming in $10,000 increments from celebrities and sports stars.
But was it more effective? Can it be repeated?
”One of the keys for athletes is that they pick moments in time to make sure their message resonates Authentic Teuvo Teravainen Jersey ,” said marketing expert Joe Favorito. ”Certainly, it has become easier for people to start a process. But it’s become more difficult to follow through with it. These days, unless you have the biggest stage, you’re competing against thousands of other people. It’s not necessarily athletes. It can be anyone.”
The NFL was unprepared for the protests, though a five-page memo in 1966 written by a young black league executive to then Commissioner Pete Rozelle predicted this could happen. The memo, which can be read in its entirety on theundefeated.com , warned that a team releasing a black player who’d been outspoken on civil rights issues could spark major protests.
Now even more than then, few platforms grab as many eyeballs as that of the NFL. And no league drapes itself in the American flag quite like the NFL. That’s two reasons Kaepernick’s gesture had legs.
When President Donald Trump took on the league this season, criticizing those who followed Kaepernick’s lead, the debate became multipronged, with players, and even some owners, banding together to show they would not be pushed around by the president.
Meanwhile, TV ratings remained flat. Some fans tuned out and stayed away, enraged by what they perceived as disrespect to the flag, the military and American values.
Kaepernick’s original message got mixed in with several others. Regardless, midway through the season Womens Tyler Eifert Jersey , the NFL realized it had to do something. After multiple meetings with player representatives, the league announced it was funneling $90 million into social justice issues that are important to players. Just last week, it launched Let’s Listen Together , an initiative designed to address some of the players’ most urgent concerns.
The launch came mere days before the Super Bowl, where ”The Star-Spang Panthers quarterback Cam Newton heads to his hometown of Atlanta this weekend without his favorite target Greg Olsen and potentially three starting offensive linemen to protect him.
That might concern some QBs, but the league's 2015 MVP is taking it stride.
"My question back to you is, does it really matter?" Newton said matter-of-factly. "If it is concerning I still have to do something; if it's not concerning I still have to do whatever I've got to do anyway. In the history of the National Football League, I don't think there have been 32 teams that have not had injuries. It's an unforgiving game and you have to roll with the punches and make due with whatever hand you're given."
Still, it's far from an ideal scenario for the Panthers, who have enough off-the-field distractions with players and coaches worrying about making sure their families are safe with Hurricane Florence approaching the East coast.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said owner David Tepper is helping develop contingency plans, but at this point the team is still waiting to get a better idea of what path the hurricane takes.
On the field the Panthers will be replacing Olsen, a three-time 1,000-yard receiver, for the second straight year after he re-broke his foot in a 16-8 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
However, the Panthers have enough faith in rookie Ian Thomas and backup Chris Manhertz 鈥?who have caught five NFL passes between them 鈥?that decided against signing a free agent tight end.
Newton understands why, saying Thomas has the potential to be a "premiere tight end" in the NFL.
"His expectations are high and I talked to him and told him today, 'Listen Bobby Ryan Jersey , you don't have any room for error,'" Newton said. "We know who you are replacing 鈥?and the shoes you are filling are extremely big. But, I wouldn't be wasting my time though (talking about him) if I didn't believe in his skillset."
The reality is replacing Olsen maybe be far less concerning for the Panthers than finding enough suitable bodies to protect their franchise quarterback.
Carolina is deeper than they have been in years at wide receiver with the likes of Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright and rookie D.J. Moore, as well as running back Christian McCaffrey coming out of the backfield 鈥?so there are plenty of options in the passing game.
The offensive line doesn't have that same depth, prompting the Panthers to trade for Corey Robinson before the season opener and sign eight-year veteran offensive tackle Chris Clark on Wednesday. Clark replaces second-team All-Pro right tackle Daryl Williams, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a knee injury. He joins left tackle Matt Kalil, who was put on IR before Week 1.
On top of that, the Panthers learned Wednesday that they might be without three-time Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner as well against the Falcons.
Turner entered the stadium Wednesday morning feeling ill and was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol. He cannot practice or play until he's cleared.
All of that means major shuffling on the offensive line for Carolina.
Rivera said he isn't sure who'll start at right guard or right tackle and the team will continue to work different combinations in practice. The Panthers will consider Clark and Amini Silatolu and Corey Robinson this week at right tackle, while Tyler Larsen, Brendan Mahon or Silatolu could end up at left guard, but he added anything is possible.
"We have a combination of things to go through," Rivera said. "Just like last week we won't really know where are headed until after Friday."
The Panthers aren't going to get a whole lot of sympathy from the Falcons, who are dealing with their own injuries following the losses of linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal.
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