We’re all familiar with the old, but still highly popular adage: if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.
It is this adage at work in Barbadian superstar and songstress extraordinaire Rihanna, who must be congratulated for her recent stance in declining to perform at the Super Bowl in support of National Football League player Colin Kaepernick.
In case you aren’t familiar with Kaepernick, the 30-year-old American football quarterback, now a free agent, became a national figure in 2016 when he ignited a firestorm of controversy by choosing to kneel on one knee rather than stand when the American national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, was played before the start of NFL games.
For Kaepernick, an African-American, his actions were in protest against racial injustice in the US, particularly frequent police killings of mostly young black males, including children – deaths that would otherwise attract the label “extrajudicial killings” when committed outside the US.
His protest led to several other NFL players, as well as athletes in other American sporting leagues, to follow suit.
But a rising star has paid the penalty for his stance. He has not played in the NFL since 2017, having not been selected by any of the 32 NFL teams, resulting in him losing millions of dollars in possible contracts.
It led to him filing a grievance against the NFL and its owners, accusing them of colluding to shun him.
His protest drew public condemnation of US President Donald Trump, apparently averse to the protest’s origin among Vietnam-era veterans.
Still, several of the world’s most loved athletes, including Lebron Jamesand Serena Williams, have come out in support of Kaepernick.
But let us put Rihanna’s snub into further perspective. The Super Bowl is one of the world’s biggest sporting events; 103 million viewers tuned in to this year’s edition.
Some of the most iconic singers and bands have been featured at the Super Bowl’s halftime show including Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Sir Paul McCartney, Prince, The Black Eyed Peas and Destiny’s Child.
So for our very own Robyn Rihanna Fenty, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Barbados, one of the most successful singers of all-time, to turn down such an opportunity, is not a decision she would have taken lightly.
A source close to the singer reportedly told US Weekly magazine that Rihanna “does not agree with the NFL’s stance”.
It is well-known and has been well documented that black people get a raw deal in the US and it is refreshing to know that Rihanna – a daughter of a free black nation – has not turned a blind eye.
Her non-appearance will not likely cost her financially as it is reported that the NFL does not pay artistes to perform at the show.
What this does show is that Rihanna believes in certain principles and is willing to stand by them no matter what. Yet again.
It is a fitting trait for someone who commands the attention of millions of followers, the majority of whom are young people.
Since declining to perform, popular band Maroon 5 has been named as her replacement.
Throughout history, there have been numerous African and African-descended people who have taken stances that altered the course of history even if it also cost them their lives in some instances.
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela are giants on whose shoulders our RiRi stands.
It is a lesson which we should all adhere to, that at some point in our lives, there is a need to take a stand.
More often than not, the repercussions of making such a stand can be severe, but ironically, the repercussions of not standing for anything are almost always much more of a burden.
This 30-year-old Barbadian, whose rise from Westbury Road to international stardom has led to a stance of this magnitude and support Kaepernick in his fight for equality, should make all Barbadians proud.
And as an official representative of Her Majesty’s Government of Barbados, she has made her own statement on behalf of a grateful nation, best expressed by Dr King, that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice to everywhere.
Her actions have struck a blow for justice while following the pledge she first learned at Charles F Broome Memorial Primary School, words all Barbados have been taught to live by: “…by my living to do credit to my nation wherever I go”.