“Getting out of your comfort zone is where the magic begins to happen”. I have no idea where this quote came from, but throughout my life I have heard it both on and off the court. When I first heard it as a young man, I was little confused. As time went on this concept became more and more relevent to me and it changed my life.
As a professional athlete I have spent countless hours throughout my career trying to perfect my craft. One thing every trainer I’ve had has always said “go game speed”. Imagine practicing a move you just learned as fast and as hard as you can only to mess up time and time again. My trainer would say, “don’t worry about it, get uncomfortable, eventually it will become instinctual”. My frustration eventually led me to growth and that move became a basic fundamental to me. Now the same principles apply in real life. Get uncomfortable and watch the growth process happen. Talk about real issues openly. Discuss real topics such as racism with an open mind.
Lately everyone has been discussing NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. The backlash from it all has been all over the place. Some say, “they are disrespecting the flag”, “they are disrespecting the service men and woman who fought for this country’, “just play football or stick to sports and stand”, or “this is not the time, place or platform to protest”. What I haven’t heard discussed is WHY players are kneeling. Colin Kapernick, then of the San Francisco 49ers chose to kneel during the national anthem in protest to the racial injustices that black people have faced in America, yet so many were caught up on “tone” they completely missed the message.
Quick history lesson, protest has and never will be to make someone comfortable. When Dr. Martin Luther King was marching for civil rights, people were uncomfortable. When the LBGT community was fighting for rights, people were uncomfortable. The women’s march of 2017 made people uncomfortable. So, why should this protest be any different?
For those who say NFL players should not use their platforms to make political statements, then what platform should they use? Do you feel they shouldn’t use their platform when they are giving back and building up communities? I’m pretty sure no one told JJ Watt he couldn’t use his platform to raise millions of dollars to aid hurricane victims in Houston. To the “just play football crowd”, they (the players) are still playing the game you so love to watch them entertain you with, they are just taking to a few minutes to address some issues in the society they live in. For the “it’s not patriotic crowd”, says who? From the service men and women that I know only one admitted to me that he was offended initially by the gesture, he also went on to say he also said that he allowed others to influence his initial thoughts. This serviceman later said, “I had to open my eyes to things that I necessarily don’t have to deal with”. I have a great amount of respect for this man. Mainly because he was willing to have a honest conversation with me. Others have said to me their protest was the exact reason they fight for our country, to protect the constitution. What do I know about patriotism? I know I my grandfather and my father both served, and my brother, who I see once every 4-6 years, is currently in the military. When my father calls me upset because the President of the USA called men protesting for justice SOBs that’s a pretty big deal to me. Especially when I know what he has had to endure after coming home from fighting for our country. Lastly before you condemn those men for their peaceful protest, ask yourself did you condemn the protesters in Charlottesville, VA? Did they use the proper platform? That protest wasn’t so peaceful, someone died and others were hurt
One lesson I learned from history class is, “history always repeats itself unless it is disrupted”. While Colin Kapernick may be the villain right now, he will go down in history as legend. Not because of what he did on the field, but for what he did off of it. Kapernick risked his career to shed let on injustice, and he even put his money where his mouth and actions are. Remember, MLK, Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson all played the roles of villains in their fight for justice and equality, but now they are looked at as heroes. Even Harriet Tubman was a fugitive of the law for helping to free slaves, yes, freeing other human beings from bondage.
Our great country is in trying times and the last thing we need is to be fighting over who is more patriotic. If you’re unclear about something, an idea or an action, ask questions. The answer you get may make you uncomfortable, but it will lead to a better level of understanding. To put all of this in perspective for you, I wrote this while in Japan, where twice since I have been here a missile has flown over Japan, via North Korea. Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and other parts of the US have been damaged severely by hurricanes. There is a lot repairs that are needed in our country and now is not the time to be divided. Change starts in the mirror and then with being open to meaningful, peaceful discussions.