Colin Kaepernick’s Jersey Hangs in the Same Museum as ‘Starry Night’

by Priscilla Frank, HuffPost Black Voices

One of the most recent additions to the halls of New York’s Museum of Modern Art is a red San Francisco 49ers jersey. The same jersey worn by Colin Kaepernick between 2011 and 2016.

Kaepernick’s sports jersey hangs with four others featured in the ongoing MoMA exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, which explores the impact of 111 carefully curated items of clothing and accessories on the 20th and 21st centuries.

The jersey is a unique item of clothing in that its uniform design conjures an almost immediate sense of power, promise and camaraderie. As MoMA curator Paola Antonelli and her curatorial team expressed in an email to HuffPost, “Children around the world look up to sports heroes as role models; for them, the jersey embodies a dream or aspiration.”

Kaepernick’s jersey, the San Francisco 49ers’ number seven, became the best-selling jersey in the NFL’s official shop website in 2016 and remains one of the top selling items to this day. The stats are especially noteworthy seeing as Kaepernick no longer plays for the 49ers, or any other NFL team at present. The popularity of the uniform, then, illuminates the quarterback’s status not only as a star athlete but a contemporary icon of civil rights.

Kaepernick first sat down during the national anthem ahead a preseason game in August 2016, lowering himself in silent protest of the racial injustice plaguing the nation. “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 NFL Media of his decision. “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.”

In September 2016, Kaepernick took a knee instead of a seat, and has continued to do so ever since. The protest has been an unremitting source of inspiration, controversy and debate since its inception. Just last month, President Donald Trump criticized the gesture, while public figures including fellow NFL players, Stevie Wonder and former CIA director John Brennan expressed their unwavering support for Kaepernick and his demonstration.

After the 2016 season came to a close, Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract and has been a free agent ever since. Nonetheless, his red jersey continues to sell in massive quantities, a testament to the influence Kaepernick holds off the field as well as on it. His jersey embodies so much of the ongoing political conversation in this country today ― what America stands for, and what it kneels for.

“We hope that visitors to ’Items will see in these sports jerseys not only the blood, sweat and tears of their original wearers but also the complex synthesis of aesthetics, personal choice, collective style, politics, business, race, gender, marketing, labor and technologythat are embodied by their reproductions,” Antonelli and her team wrote.

The other jerseys in the exhibition are Pelé’s 1958 FIFA World Cup Brazilian national soccer team jersey, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls basketball jersey and the Black Ferns women’s rugby national team jersey. Athletic gear aside, the MoMA show will also feature garments including a little black dress, a keffiyeh, a pearl necklace and Levi’s 501 jeans.

For the full article, read here.

For more information about the growth in recognition of black history in museums, read here.

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Why Michael Sam’s Coming Out is Crucial for Black Gay Men

By Drew-Shane Daniels, Huffingtonpost.com

Michael Sam made history yesterday as the first Division I college football player ever to come out as gay. The defensive lineman from the University of Missouri spoke publicly about his sexual orientation, and could potentially become the first openly gay player in the National Football League. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-SEC selection during his senior year wanting to “own his own truth” is an important moment for black, gay men.

The truth about “coming out” stories is that black, gay men need to hear them. We need to see queer people of color celebrating their truths and journeys. These vignettes serve as friendly reminders that this “gay thing” isn’t a phase or something exclusive to white Americans. (. . .)1392054049_michael-sam-lg

Any time an athlete, entertainer or prominent person in the spotlight comes out, there seems to be a sigh of “finally.” This consolation goes to not only show that we need more examples, but also how hard it is for gays to navigate this thing called life. Gays are still being beaten and ostracized for what goes on in their bedrooms. There are still laws condoning violence against those who live in their truths; some are even incarcerated or stoned to death. Children are still going to school confronting bullies and being taunted daily. When people are taking their own lives to avoid the pressure of abandonment from so-called loved ones and family members, these stories matter. (. . .)

What critics tend to forget is that exposure is key, and fortunately this movement is picking up much needed steam in the black community as we can see more brown faces who are gay. Sam joins the list of other prominent athletes who have recently come out, like Jason Collins, Orlando Cruz and Brittney Griner.

Although studies will lead you to think otherwise, prejudice against gay men, no matter their ethnicity, is still widespread. Coming out is never easy, and probably never will be with the continued unconstructive stigmas and attitudes towards gays.

imgres( . . .) Using this awareness, we have a responsibility to our own community to foster an environment where people feel comfortable sharing — or not. Moments like Sam’s announcement helps keep the conversation going on.

I genuinely applaud Sam’s brave decision in a traditionally homophobic culture to live openly and authentically at the heels of his professional football career. Living your truth might be easy for you, but not for the next man. Many times we can unknowingly force ourselves and our views on people without them being in a place to receive them because we aren’t in that space. When people want to share, we should stop, listen and not chastise. (. . .)

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