Bronson vs. Kaepernick: Not all protests are created equal

While some athletes choose to sit in protests, others are standing up

· Sep 22, 2016 Tweet

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Bronson Koenig is known across campus for his prodigious basketball ability. What Madison student could forget his buzzer-beater against Xavier last spring?

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Yet what really makes Bronson special is a side of him many students are unaware of — he is a role model for Native-Americans across the country.

Koenig is a proud member of the Ho-Chunk Tribe. This Friday, Koenig, along with his brother and a trainer, drove 11 hours to North Dakota to protest construction of The Dakota Access Pipeline. Those against the $3.8 billion project argue that its passing underneath the Missouri River could have catastrophic effects on both the economy and culture of the neighboring Sioux tribe.

Koenig’s political activism comes at a time during which many athletes across the country are finding their voices, and trying to speak out against injustices in productive manners. Yet not all protests are created equal.

Colin Kaepernick has dominated the sports and political news cycles as of late. His controversial sitting, then kneeling, during the national anthem played before every NFL game has sparked outrage among many who see his disrespect of the flag as an affront on the armed forces and police officers who fight everyday to keep this country safe. Yet those people are missing the point.

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Our country is not a perfect one. We are a diverse nation filled with different opinions, and what makes us special is that we are all allowed to share our opinions. The first amendment guarantees each of us the right to personal expression. Furthermore, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled that students could not be forced to pledge allegiance to the flag. Kaepernick is within his rights as an American to do what he is doing. I admire his bravery.

But Kaepernick is missing his target, and his protest is ultimately failing. First, almost no one needs to be reminded that inequality exists between blacks and whites in this country — and those that do won’t be swayed by a NFL quarterback. Second, the press does quite an adequate job of covering the bodies in the street that are inspiring his protest. All his protest has accomplished is inspiring other players to take knees too. It has not inspired much constructive dialogue, if any.

I want to see him stand with others, together. Because that is what this country needs right now. In arguably the most divisive political settings since the Civil War, we need mutual understanding, not singular outcries. Kaepernick could learn a lot from Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, who hosted a town hall to encourage open dialogue between citizens, law enforcement officials and politicians on the matter of police brutality.

Kaepernick’s actions, while with the right intentions, eventually fall short of their goal. Though comparing systematic racism to a pipeline is a stretch in many ways, Kaepernick should look to Bronson as an inspiration.

Put your money where your mouth is. If you want change, stand together with others, not alone on your knees.

Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying business.


This article was published Sep 22, 2016 at 7:00 am and last updated Sep 21, 2016 at 10:27 pm


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