Fast forward four years to 2020, where a string of police brutality cases capped by the death of George Floyd led the NFL and their ‘silver spooned’ commissioner Roger Goodell to release an awkwardly crafted video that basically admitted that Kaepernick was right. Yet they didn’t have the guts to call him out by name.
There was just one error with the NFL’s approach: Kaepernick was right. The league seemed to think that it could ignore police brutality simply because it had “moved on” from Kaepernick, but police officers kept killing Black people. Hundreds of American cities have held Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and kneeling has become one of the international symbols of the movement. Public opinion has shifted. In 2016, Kaepernick was villainized for protesting during the anthem; in 2020, Drew Brees was villainized for saying he would “never agree with anybody” who protested in that way.
As a proud Syracuse University alum, I am very sad and troubled by what has transpired on ‘my’ campus over the past few weeks, where racist graffiti and vandalism have shut the campus down. Sadly, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, as a few years ago some Theta Tau pledges and brothers were suspended for a racist, tone deaf video that was part of a pledging ceremony.
What struck me was the fact that I was on campus that weekend. I was on campus that weekend along with hundreds upon hundreds of prospective students and fellow parents of prospective students, taking tours of the campus and all the different schools on campus. That weekend was SU’s Fall Open House.
It would have been super awkward (and that is the understatement of the year) if SU had issued a public statement during their important Open House weekend for prospective students. I want to be clear that I have absolutely no factual evidence to back this up. I am purely speculating and connecting a few dots. And clearly, the timing of when SU’s Administration did make their initial response – 5 days after the initial event – only pushed back the media firestorm that has transpired over the past few weeks. But if there is any nugget of truth to this having any influence on the timing of their response, what does that say? No matter when the news broke, the fact of the matter is that every prospective student and parent that were up there that weekend for the Open House will be seriously reconsidering how SU fits into their future college plans based on what has transpired there.
I love Syracuse University. I bleed Orange. I was – and will continue to be – so proud of the diversity that was on the SU campus when I was there and in the years since. It was what made the school unique to me. It was not always sunshine and roses. There were issues, disagreements, and incidents. But that happens in any semi-closed environment that has such a diverse student body. The difference this time is that the level of respect that was present years ago has ceded to a culture where ignorant racists feel emboldened to spread their vile messages. This can not continue on the SU campus or in this country. My campus is better than this. We are better than this.