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Taking a Knee: On the Field Political Activism

Jason Hayden, Writer

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It all started with San Francisco NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand in 2016 during the playing of the national anthem before the start of each game. Kaepernick gained international attention and started a highly controversial movement.

According to the Washington Post, Kaepernick told the NFL Media on August 26, 2016, that: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”

Kaepernick is talking about police brutality and police shootings across the country like that of Keith Scott in Charlotte, NC and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kaepernick’s actions caused an uproar and he took a ton of heat for his remarks. However, he also received a lot of praise for his stance. Many more NFL players and some owners joined Kaepernick in his protest, including members of the Seahawks, the Ravens, the Titans, the Steelers, the Colts, the Eagles, the Saints, the Browns, the Cowboys, the Dolphins, the Vikings, the Jaguars, the Rams, the Jets and the Giants. Kaepernick’s jersey became the top-selling jersey on the NFL’s official shop website.

It wasn’t just NFL players either: some military veterans began using the hashtag  “#VeteransForKaepernick” to show their support. An NYC police officer named  Frank Serpico stood with other police officers by the Brooklyn Bridge to support Kaepernick. Athletes from soccer, baseball, ice hockey and basketball also protested to support Kaepernick. The producer and cast of Grey’s Anatomy and Star Trek Discovery’s cast and producer posted photos of them all kneeling.Stevie Wonder knelt during the Global Citizen’s Festival. John Legend and David Matthews knelt before their concerts. And the list goes on.

Kaepernick was voted “the most disliked player in the NFL” by an NFL fan poll. People posted videos of themselves burning Kaepernick jerseys. In addition, fans boycotted the NFL because of Kaepernick and television ratings dropped significantly. Kaepernick received multiple death threats. The national anthem singer for the Ravens resigned out of fear from the NFL fans.
President Trump tweeted that protesters should be suspended or fired for not standing for the anthem. This added fuel to the fire because over 200 NFL players protested Trump by locking arms, sitting, kneeling, or refusing to leave the locker room while the anthem played.

It was a hot topic, and everyone had something to say.

My thoughts are that the singing of the National Anthem is one of the most powerful moments because it’s the one time everyone comes together before going to their separate sides to play the game. I also love football and hate that someone’s politics are ruining the game. However, I’m on Kaepernick’s side because he is kind of like a modern day Martin Luther King as he is peacefully protesting. He is seeing something wrong in the country, and he found a way to bring awareness to it. He had a lot to lose but he chose to take a stand anyway. Former NFL football cornerback and writer for the Undefeated, Dominique Foxworth, said that “Kaepernick’s protest is just as American as the flag” and I am inclined to agree.

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Taking a Knee: On the Field Political Activism