Colin Rand Kaepernick, all-star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers turned civil rights hero within a matter of months, and all by a single, silent gesture.
Colin Kaepernick is widely known for kneeling during the American national anthem at NFL games. His aim was to publically acknowledge the levels of police brutality in America and the oppression of black people. Through the peaceful means of a silent protest, he hoped to use his platform and level of celebrity to help bring support to the Black Lives Matter movement. However, many people disagree with Kaepernick’s form of protest, believing that he is ‘disrespecting the flag’ and American people. But, did you know that the first time Colin Kaepernick protested, it was hardly noticed?
During the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers played the Houston Texans at their Levi’s Stadium. All-star quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the national anthem, as he as not playing the game, the gesture went relatively unnoticed. However, one week later the 49ers played away with the Denver Broncos, and again sat out during the national anthem, and this time people noticed. Colin Kaepernick was trending on Twitter and Facebook, creating a divisive narrative between Americans. Kaepernick told NFL.com that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. 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”.
The Media Moment That Changed It All:
The drama surrounding Kaepernick throughout the preseason grew. Social media initiated a forum of discussion that was perpetuated by news outlets and local reporters, all of which wanted an interview with Kaepernick. On the 28th of August, after a game, the media caught up with the Colin and this is what he had to say:
“This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t. It’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country. If we have these real conversations that are uncomfortable for a lot of people. If we have these conversations, there’s a better understanding of where both sides are coming from.”
On September 1st, 2016 the San Francisco 49ers played the San Diego Chargers at home. And on September 1st Colin Kaepernick took the knee.
This time he was not alone. Kaepernick was joined by Eric Reid, safety for the San Francisco 49ers. The two were good friends and had played college football against each other when they were younger. Twitter rallied behind Reid and encouraged others to support Kaepernick and his protest against the oppression of black people. Again, many others were outraged that this ‘trend’ was spreading, and would not support kneeling during the national anthem. Reid taking the knee was a monumental moment, it would show that the movement was indeed expanding.
From that point onwards, the protest was futile. More and more players across the NFL and other platforms recognised what Kaepernick was trying to achieve. During the same game, opponent Jeremy Lane (San Diego Chargers) took the knee just minutes after Kaepernick and Reid.
- On September 5th Megan Rapinoe, professional soccer player for Seattle Reign FC and an openly gay player also took the knee. She says that she understands “what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,”. People weren’t happy with her response when playing an away game against Washington Spirit on Sept 7 they played the national anthem when the teams were in the locker room. Many believe that this was so that she couldn’t have the chance to kneel.
- On September 9th Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall also took a knee during the national anthem. Afterwards, Marshall told the Denver post that “”I’m not against the military. I’m not against the police or America, I’m against social injustice”. He also said that “Kaep, he’s using his platform how he wants to use it, to reach the masses. We have freedom of speech. But then we use our platform, and we get bashed for it. It’s almost like they want us to only go with the grain. And once we go against the grain, it’s an issue.”
- On September 11th, on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2011. Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Still and Jelani Jenkins – all from the Miami Dolphins took a knee for the national anthem. Although, the athletes did stand for the 9/11 acknowledgement.
- On September 18th Kaepernick’s teammates: Antoine Bethea, Eli Harold, Jaquiski and Rashard Robinson join him and take the knee before playing the Carolina Panthers.
- On September 21st every one of the Indian Fevers players locked arms with each other and kneeled during the national anthem, they were playing Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA playoffs.
Colin Kaepernick’ decision #TakeTheKnee is an issue that brings us back to the topic of freedom of speech. An article in The Independent said that the NFL was trying to form some sort of resolution, stating that “As we said yesterday, there will be a discussion of these issues at the owners meeting next week. The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together.” But Kaepernick has become a figurehead for people without a voice. Using his platform, social media and celebrity friends and colleagues to highlight the oppression experienced by black people in America. Social media navigates a sense of right and wrong, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This benefits a social movement as the more debate around a subject, the more it is circulated and talked about. Therefore bringing more attention to it.
Thank you for reading this weeks blog post! Next week I will be looking at #BringBackOurGirls #MeToo and #Ferguson. Go to my social media page to check out my Twitter and Instagram account for more information and updates regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement.