People protest in different ways, from on the streets to social media.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers, has been kneeling while the national anthem plays before each of his games. Kaepernick began doing this during the National Football League’s (NFL) preseason. Although the NFL doesn’t require their players to stand during the playing of the national anthem, that hasn’t stopped Kaepernick’s protest from gaining a lot of attention. He started gaining attention when he was dressed for a game, in jersey and pads.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL media after a game. “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 isn’t the first athlete to sit down and protest during the national anthem. This has been an ongoing fight in the sports community. Professional athletes have been protesting in similar ways for years. At the 1968 Olympics, two American athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, raised their fists in the air, to show their support for the black power movement that was especially large in the 1960s.With the media taking up such a large role in modern day sports, Kaepernick has drawn the eyes of people around the world.
“In that era, guys took on social issues and their presence forced the country to address larger social issues like racism,” said Donald McPherson, a former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. “The echo chamber these guys live in via social media allows them to feel they have the support of a large population of people that support their causes. It helps that, today, athletes are financially comfortable to take a stand.”
High schoolers in New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois and Texas joined in on this protest. In Lincoln, Nebraska, an African American football player kneeled and one of his white teammates joined him. At Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, New Jersey, a football team followed the example of their coach when he knelt.
Loy Norrix football coach Jason Porter wants his players to come to him. If the player has a good reason to protest, he will let them. He wants to make sure that his players will come to him if they ever feel the need to go along with Kaepernick.
“First, sit down in a one-on-one situation and make sure what they are doing is for the right reasons, but also make sure that the team and the program as a whole knows what’s going on,” Porter said. “I think that most of the team is pretty open, where they would say, ‘Hey coach, I’m thinking about doing this,’ so they would let us know before hand and we wouldn’t get any big surprises.”
Over the weeks, there have been more and more players supporting Kaepernick with his protest. Megan Rapinoe, an openly gay player for Seattle Reign FC and United States Women’s National Soccer Team, agrees with what Kaepernick is doing.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it,” Rapinoe said after showing her support to Kaepernick before a game.
Many people either agree with Kaepernick’s right to uphold his first amendment right and others are strongly against it. Many people don’t understand the reasoning behind Kaepernick’s protest, People just see an American not standing for his country that men and women have lost their lives to protect. However, not all veterans are against the fact that Kaepernick is kneeling.
“Too much focus was given to the symbol of [Kaepernick] sitting rather than the message,” Joe McCastle currently serving with the U.S Army told “Huffington Post”. “His message was being clouded by constant slander … there are veterans who are not only not offended but are actually behind him and are indeed proud of how he exercises the rights we fight tirelessly for.”
When people disagree with what Kaepernick is doing they say that he is anti-American. In countless interviews he has said that is not true. He respects what the men and women of the military have fought for their lives. He knows that there have been many lives lost, but he also knows that people aren’t looking at the message that is behind his kneeling.
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now,” Kaepernick said in yet another ESPN interview.