Etan Thomas is a commentator I will always listen to. His is a vital voice when it comes to issues of athlete activism and race relations.
Today, he published an open letter to Colin Kaepernick in The Guardian, addressing Kaepernick’s silence over the past few years:
When I spoke on a panel at last year’s AEJMC Conference in Washington, I defended your right to remain silent to a room full of reporters who were criticizing you for not speaking up. I didn’t back down from a pointed exchange with Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post: “What else did you want him to say? He specifically told you the reasons why he was taking a knee: to protest political corruption, systemic racism and police brutality, and y’all allowed the narrative to be switched to being disrespectful to the country and the military.”
I accused those reporters of lazy journalism for letting your message be hijacked in the absence of your voice. Let’s just say I didn’t receive a standing ovation for my position.
I was at that panel. (Fun fact: That’s my YouTube video he linked to. Sorry for shooting it up-and-down. Rookie mistake.). It was, in fact, a pointed exchange. The room was heavy during it, but it’s worth noting that it was a civil disagreement. Thomas gave us all a lot to think about, because what he said ran in the face of the established ideals of how journalists do their job. And because he presented in such a forceful, intelligent manner.
As I wrote at the time, the larger issue to me is not the attitudes of the journalists but of their editors:
But I can’t help but believe that the most valuable audience for this would be editors — the people who make coverage decisions and write the headlines and set the tones for their respective sports sections.
Thomas’ entire piece is worth your time and attention. Addressing Kaepernick, he writes:
People all over America and around the world believe in your cause. They support you. And they need to hear directly from the man who inspired an entire generation of athletes to find their voice and use their platforms and follow in your footsteps. We know we have a long way to go. We are definitely not “past kneeling”. You’ve inspired millions, but now the people are ready for your voice.