Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Smallwood: Athletes who didn't vote have no right to protest

IN MY Small opinion, neither San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick nor Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has a legitimate knee to bend on anymore.

IN MY Small opinion, neither San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick nor Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has a legitimate knee to bend on anymore.

Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem before 49ers games has been an issue of discussion since he acknowledged he was doing it as a sign of protest when asked about it after the team's third preseason game.

Evans, who previously had stood for the anthem, surprised people by sitting for the first time Sunday before the Bucs' game against the Chicago Bears.

He said his action was a protest against Donald Trump's election as president over Hillary Clinton the previous Tuesday.

"I said this a long time ago," Evans told reporters after the game. "When (Trump) ran, I thought it was a joke, and the joke continues. I'm not a political person that much, but I got common sense. And I know when something's not right."

Whether or not you agreed with Kaepernick or Evans, their motivations seemed to be to protest things they believed are hostile toward, unresponsive to and even dangerous for African American citizens.

Well, it turns out that whatever both believe is "not right," they helped assure it would continue by their inaction last Tuesday. On Election Day, when individual Americans exercised their constitutional right to cast their ballots and have a say in our country's direction, Kaepernick and Evans joined the roughly 45 percent of voting-age Americans who did not think it was important enough to participate. Turnout was the lowest since 1996.

"You know, I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote," Kaepernick proudly told reporters after Sunday's game. "I said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against the system of oppression. I'm not going to show support for that system.

"And to me, the oppressor isn't going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression."

That's about as stupid as anything I have heard. If I can possibly decipher his reasoning, Kaepernick said he didn't vote to try to change a system he believes is oppressive because his oppressors who run the system won't allow him to have a say in removing them, which is what voting is kind of all about.

As flawed as Kaepernick's reasoning is, Evans' is even worse.

This is a man who said he thought Trump was a "joke" and, when he had the opportunity to possibly stop this "joke" from becoming the leader of the free world, Evans passed the responsibility on to everyone else. Now, that Trump has won the election, Evans has the nerve to protest for the first time to show his indignation at the turn of events.

According to the Tampa Tribune, Evans revealed he did not vote when responding to a question on the Instagram account of teammate Louis Murphy. Evans is registered to vote in Galveston, Texas, and has no listed party affiliation. He could have voted by absentee ballot, as millions of other Americans did.

I won't get into a discussion about the president-elect. Trump's win is irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make. Simply, 240 years ago, the people of 13 colonies declared they were sovereign states from Britain, during a war that had started a year earlier, in 1775.

An estimated 25,000 people died as a result of the eight-year American Revolution that ended in 1783. The right to vote for their representatives in government was one of the primary results of the Revolution.

Over the next two centuries, about 42 million Americans have served in the military and about 1.2 million have died in service during war, each to protect our way of life, which includes the precious right to vote. Nearly half of those casualties came during the Civil War, which ultimately led to the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote in 1870.

It took nearly another century of struggle for President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to prevent legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from voting.

Both Kaepernick and Evans said their protests during the anthem is not meant to disrespect the men and women serving in the United States military.

As the son of a man who served our country for more than two decades, I can discern the difference between protest and disrespect. What I do find disrespectful, however, is Kaepernick, Evans and any other American who purposely did not exercise his or her right to vote - something millions of Americans fought for to protect and preserve.

I have a difficult time stomaching those individuals who did nothing Tuesday, yet have the nerve to protest the results of a system they elected not to participate in.

Last Tuesday, Evans and Kaepernick had the opportunity to potentially do something about things in our government they disagree with.

Both determined it was not all that important to them after all.