We all have something that we stand up for. I know people who will fight to the death the right to eat pineapple on their pizzas (which is a sin, don’t at me). On a more serious note, I’m someone who will stand up for Black rights for as long as I live because I want to help uplift my people however I can.
Over the weekend, it came out that Rihanna had turned down performing for the NFL Super Bowl Halftime show because of her stance over Colin Kaepernick. I imagine that, for her, performing for the NFL while Kaepernick was not back playing on the field wasn’t in alignment with her beliefs about not only his treatment but the treatment of Black lives in general. It’s not hard to envision that, considering that Fenty Beauty was created in her attempt to address the ongoing lack of diversity in the beauty industry.
Aside from Rihanna, a few other celebrities have come out in opposition of the NFL, including Amy Schumer and Pink. Considering what they’re opposing the NFL for, I give all the celebrities who have turned down the performance a thumbs up. It was a chance for them to use their platform to make a statement, even if that statement was a big fat no.
With the president being a former celebrity, and with the recent stunts of Kanye, many have grown tired of the Hollywood and politics dance. Across party lines, though for varying reasons, the consensus is that celebrities should stick to what they do best and keep their politics to themselves. I understand the thought process, but I don’t necessarily agree that celebrities have no say in the political landscape. I think the question is just how much and how will they express it. I think we can all agree not to do it Kanye style–make large, sweeping, dangerous statements about slavery and current race relations of this country and then apologize when the backlash is scathing. We’ve certainly learned not to vote in a reality star as president either.
Lebron James is an excellent example. For years athletes and politics have gone hand in hand. James expressed his politics by creating the I Promise School, an institution that not only help its Akron, Ohio students grow but also provides resources for the parents. Akron, James’ hometown, is a minority heavy and working class majority area. Seeing that the government was not providing for them, James used his platform–his money in this instance–to create a solution to the problem. Beyonce created the Formation Scholars Scholarship Program to serve incoming female undergrad or graduate students pursuing degrees in the arts or African-American studies.
The Super Bowl is probably one of the most viewed events on television, so it makes complete sense that the organizers would want high-profile musicians and artists to perform. They’re slow to realize, however, that the longer they refuse to allow Kaepernick back onto the field the worse it’s going to get for them. It’s bad enough that they’ve infringed upon the players’ rights to free speech in order to keep the bigwigs at top pleased. It’s even sadder that the conservatives who throw a fit over the athletes protesting fail to acknowledge that the NFL restricting their rights is going against their favorite First Amendment.
What is to be learned from this Kaepernick situation and the NFL’s hatred of him are two things. One, Black life matters and Black opinion is strong enough to have the league prevent Black athletes from expressing theirs. The second lesson is that celebrities truly do have some kind of power, and the acceptance of it is determined by the outsider. Considering that football seems to have a bit more of a conservative lean, it is no surprise that those who align with said values were offended by Kaepernick’s knee-taking (despite the fact that a veteran gave him the tip and that Tebow is allowed to express his religious identity by kneeling in prayer on the field, but whatever!).
The expression of this power comes down to responsibility. As much as we like to hold our favorites up to a “they can do no wrong” standard, we have to start doing that and we shouldn’t stop. We need them to put their money where their mouth is and use their platforms to speak up for what’s right. In this day and age, the rest of us down here are doing what we can everyday to make a change, even if a small one. Knowing that the Rihanna’s and the Pink’s of the world are standing with Kaepernick means that his cause is gaining even more traction.
I wonder how long the NFL is going to keep up this stint. I wonder which team will hire Kaepernick after they realize that the cost of not taking him back is much higher. I wonder when Black America won’t have to protest for things that should be undebatable, things that should be a given.