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A player's quiet protest sparked an important national conversation.

The 49ers quarterback defends his decision to protest during the national anthem.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat huddled on the bench before his team took on the Green Bay Packers in a preseason football game.

As the national anthem played, players on both teams stood to honor the flag. Kaepernick, however, wasn't among them.

This decision — not his electric play that led the team to the Super Bowl just a few seasons back — may very well go down as the defining moment in his career. He seems OK with that.


Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told the NFL of his decision.

The move was pretty shocking. After all, standing for the national anthem is just something that happens before sporting events in this country. His decision to sit it out was met with massive condemnation. It was tough to watch.

But he stood (or rather sat) firm, saying, "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

So let's take a look at why the 28-year-old took a stand by taking a seat — in his own words.

Kaepernick has since elaborated on why he sat out, and it's worth hearing his explanation. By understanding his motives, perhaps it's easier to understand his methods. Below are some of the highlights (but you can check out the entire transcript here).

"There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable," he said about police brutality. "People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

"To me, [protesting] is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military, it’s a freedom that men and woman that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by contributions they have made," he explained to those who criticized his decision to sit as being disrespectful to the military.

He doesn't see his move as disrespectful, however, and he certainly doesn't owe the military any sort of performative patriotism. The military has fought for his — and everyone's — opportunity to protest peacefully.

"This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation and then really effect change," he said.

Protest and criticism aren't signs of hate, but rather of a desire to improve a home that you love, and there's certainly nothing un-American about protesting.

When Ryan Lochte embarrassed himself while acting as a representative of the United States with a lie about being mugged at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics, he was rewarded with a spot on a primetime TV show to explain himself. So why can't we cut Kaepernick a bit of slack for taking a principled stand against a well-documented pattern of injustice happening in our country? Of the two actions, Kaepernick's is far more inherently "American" than Lochte's, hands down.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Just a few weeks earlier, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas faced somewhat similar national anthem-based criticism after she failed to put her hand over her heart during a medal ceremony. Never mind the fact that other U.S. athletes did the same with relative silence from critics.

The truth is that America is a 240-year-long work in progress. Things can, and should, and if we're being optimistic enough, will become better as time goes on.

In order for that to happen, we cannot let ourselves remain complacent, and we cannot gloss over issues of inequality, oppression, and violence in our quest to become — as so many like to say — "the greatest country on Earth."

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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