colin kaepernick Church rallies behind embattled quarterback
STAMFORD — Rev. Robert Jackson has traditionally handed out T-shirts with Bethel AME church’s logo for their annual friends and family event, but this year — inspired by Colin Kaepernick and Nike — he called an audible.
Last Sunday, at the recently reopened church on Stamford’s West Side, Jackson and congregants wore Nike apparel to the service to show uniformity — not just in attire, but in support of the social justice campaign Kaepernick started.
The former NFL quarterback began a movement by kneeling during the national anthem as a player with the San Francisco 49ers. His goal was to bring attention to police brutality cases, but he quickly became a lighting-rod figure, drawing criticism from President Donald Trump and others for what they deemed a disrespectful act against the American flag.
Kaepernick opted out of the final year of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017 and has not found a new team. But Kaepernick has resurfaced this month in a controversial Nike advertisement that features a close-up photo of the quarterback’s face, with the text “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Jackson, and other Kaepernick supporters, defended the former player’s actions as a silent and peaceful protest against injustice, and not a campaign against the American flag or the military, as opponents have claimed.
“Those who say he disrespected the flag, I beg to differ,” Jackson said. “It has nothing to do with that.”
Jackson said he’s grateful to those in the Armed Services, “but I don’t think taking a knee discounts what they have done in terms of their service to our country.”
He described Kaepernick’s actions as “raising awareness of social ills that impact people of color,” and not an attack on the flag.
So, Jackson decided to show his support for Kaepernick and the giant apparel and shoes manufacturer by asking churchgoers to wear their Nike finest last week.
He showed up to church wearing a Nike shirt and sneakers.
“We wanted to show our support that this is a congregation that believes in social justice and standing for those who don’t have a voice,” he said.
Jackie Buckle, a steward at the church, wore her Nike sneakers to the service as well.
She said the idea to support Kaepernick and Nike was “awesome,” but only represented a small portion of the Sunday service, which was dedicated to the church’s annual friends and family event.
“It was great,” she said. “The church was full, and there were even more people for the fellowship afterward.”
AME Bethel Church has endured a tumultuous year, after a November electrical fire caused about $230,000 in damage and forced the congregation to find alternative locations for services.
In the weeks after the fire, church members held meetings and services at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel and Cloonan Middle School.
Jackson said church attendance dipped during that time, but the congregation still held community events such as an Easter egg hunt and a backpack giveaway.
The congregation returned to the church in May, but services were uncomfortably warm for most of the summer until a new heating and cooling system was installed last month.
Jackson said the church is now fully restored with new pews, upholstery and carpeting, as well as fresh interior and exterior paint.
“We’ve bounced back from (the fire),” he said. “The church is in much better shape than we were.”