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Colin Kaepernick and Akim Aliu. One well known, the other seemingly irrelevant. Yet between these two men, one is making a huge social impact through his sport. The other is Colin Kaepernick. 

Akim Aliu is a 30 year old hockey player who played for the Calgary Flames, as well as a host of different minor league hockey teams. He is Ukrainian-Canadian, moving to Canada at 7 years old from Kiev, Ukraine.

Yes, he was never the best or the strongest player, but he worked hard and made his way up in the hockey ranks.

One thing about him was special, however. He was a black man in a sport dominated by white men. For the great majority of the league and fans, it made no difference to them. However, he endured many racial incidents during his playing career that he looks to now bring to light, and bring social change to hockey culture.

As we all know, Colin Kaepernick is the former starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who made national headlines for kneeling during the national anthem before football games in the name of social change.

He claimed “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”.

While his claim is highly debatable, the steps he took to fix this problem is frankly laughable, focusing on building his own brand instead of actually fighting for social change. 

Kaepernick took on an ultra-courageous journey towards social change – highlighting a legitimate issue in society that needs to be improved.  Unfortunately, he destroyed the meaning, making the campaign about himself and personal attention.

His kneeling was very divisive, with some people being supportive, and some people believing he was disrespecting the nation; even with President Barack Obama saying, “Sometimes out of these controversies, we start getting into a conversation, and I want everybody to listen to each other. So I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing.”

After his protests, Colin Kaepernick was unable to sign with a team once his contract expired with the 49ers. Up until this point, he had made around $43,479,216 in the NFL.

However, he became a cover athlete for Nike due to his protest, as well as making tons of cash from side endorsements. While he already had a deal with them, his protests only increased his standing in Nike. His current deal with Nike is still unknown, but is suspected to be millions of dollars per year.

It is claimed he stood up to try and change culture, but in reality he is making the same amount of money, and not doing much helping.

He donated about 2% of his NFL salary to charity, which while important – does not make up for the fact that through trying to “help” the countries racial issues; he only made them worse. He was supposed to try and make relations better, but every suggested solution or help, he has rejected. He has been very petty, making Nike pull a shoe with the flag of Betsy Ross, celebrating US culture.

Now, Kaep is working on beginning a publishing group (Kaepernick Publishing) to release is own memoir.

He also was recently invited to have a tryout for the NFL, as he claims he still wants to play. Instead of going to it, he skipped it and went to his own workout. He attempted to bring more attention to himself, not change anything.

In fact, he gained 35,394% more followers after taking a knee than before. Throughout his whole crusade, the only real change that came out of it was attention brought upon himself, no real changes otherwise. 

Hockey culture is currently undergoing rapid social change due to Akim Aliu speaking up, and he has made a true effect on the game. Instead of making a huge public stand and scandal for himself, Akim focused more on how he can make true changes.

Akim had just seen a tweet about how a recently fired coach, Mike Babcock, had mistreated a player. In a “spur-of-the-moment” decision, Akim posted two tweets in succession that briefly described the issues and racial abuse he endured in his career (see bottom).

He singled out in this tweet Bill Peters, the current head coach of the Calgary Flames. Now at this point, Akim had two choices. He could have pulled a Colin Kaepernick and made it about himself, or try and make a real change by going after the major players in hockey, such as Gary Bettman and GM’s of different teams.

Intelligently, he chose the latter, and in the short time since it has been brought up he has made an incredible difference in the world of hockey.

Some examples of the changes he made are: 3 coaches fired due to abusive incidents, an apology was issued to him by an old team accepting they were wrong, and he had a meeting with Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner and both him and Akim have come out stating there will be big changes in the future of the NHL.

He attacked the heart of the issue, and actually has made a huge difference.

Regardless of whether or not you believe Colin Kaepernick is a villain or a hero, it is indisputable that he gained a lot of attention; and almost nothing has changed.

Akim Aliu, again whether or not you believe he is a hero or villain has been effective.  He did not call attention to himself, and is ok being unknown as long as he makes changes in the world, which he undoubtedly did. His actions were admirable and inspiring, and hopefully people will follow his lead to implement positive changes in their own communities.

The moral of the story? Simply attacking the heart of the issue – rather than causing unrelated and unnecessary controversy – will ultimately lead to a better movement in not just sports, but in life and society. (link to tweets)