A New Jersey pastor is encouraging his congregation to show support for the instigator of the NFL player anthem-kneeling protests, Colin Kaepernick, by wearing Nike gear to Sunday church meetings.
Kaepernick, who has said the anthem demonstrations were in protest of an alleged systematic, racially motivated campaign by white police officers to harass and kill African-Americans, recently signed an advertising contract with Nike.
Rev. Simeon Spencer, the pastor of Union Baptist Church in Trenton was reacting to boycotts of Nike and an incident in which an Alabama pastor cut up a Nike headband and wristband in church, NJ.com reported.
Spencer connected the Kaepernick controversy to a passage in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Titling his message “Walking Shoes,” he cited Ephesians 6:15, which says, “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
The pastor told NJ.com he was “annoyed” with the “whole conflation of patriotism with religion and the idea that what Colin Kaepernick was doing was unpatriotic, or that it was somehow irreverent and disrespectful to veterans.”
NJ.com noted that in 2012, Spencer paid tribute to Trayvon Martin by encouraging churchgoers to come to a service in black hoodies, which is what Martin was wearing when he was fatally shot. However, the Hispanic man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, was acquitted by a jury that concluded the evidence showed Martin was the attacker and Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.
Spencer said that rather than be concerned about Kaepernick’s contract with Nike, the country should be concerned about everyday “contracts with evil.”
“I hope people begin to listen and understand protests aren’t to suggest we don’t live in a great nation,” he said. “But we are a country filled with contradictions. I hope people can learn and understand that what Kaepernick is talking about is a reality of life for so many African-American people.”
The Nike campaign’s theme is “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Spencer said he likes the theme.
“I don’t know if he really sacrificed everything, but he had enough courage to put himself on the line, and he did more than a lot of people would,” the pastor said of Kaepernick.
The player protests began in the preseason of 2016 when Kaepernick sat down during the national anthem before a San Francisco 49ers game, later explaining he was protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
Kaepernick said: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The 49ers eventually released Kaepernick, whose performance had severely declined since leading his team to a Super Bowl in 2012, and he remains a free agent. The protests, mostly taking a knee during the anthem, have continued, and many analysts believe its the primary reason NFL attendance and TV viewership dropped precipitously last season.
African-American columnist Larry Elder, who has criticized the protests of the flag, cites studies from mainstream sources showing, among others, a 75 percent decline in police killings of blacks since 1968 and the rarity of police shooting of an unarmed black male. African-American scholar Shelby Steele, who grew up in the segregated South, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that while there is still racism in America — because it’s “endemic to the human condition, just as stupidity is” — the U.S. has come to a point where racism “has become anathema and freedom has expanded.”