NFL Players Protest by Taking a Knee
November 14, 2017
If you’ve been watching NFL football this year, you may have noticed some players sitting down or kneeling during the National Anthem. However, you may not know how this started or what it represents.
The protest began in August 2016 during the NFL Preseason when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem. Soon, Kaepernick started to kneel during the National Anthem.
Kaepernick stated he began kneeling as a way to protest police brutality and oppression of African-Americans in the United States. He said this was not a sign of disrespect for the American flag and the military.
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country,” Kaepernick said. “I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country.
Kaepernick drew massive criticism from NFL fans. In response to this, fellow 49ers player Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling.
Many fans believed players should be required to stand during the national anthem. When this happened, the NFL released a statement, saying “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem”.
After the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers. In October 2017, he filed a lawsuit against NFL team owners for colluding against him being hired. To this day, he remains unsigned by other teams.
However, the protest gained steam with other NFL teams and players in September 2017 when President Donald Trump said he believed players that knelt during the National Anthem should be fired during a rally in Alabama.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that player off the field right now, out, he’s fired,’” Trump said.
In the ensuing games after Trump’s statement, many teams and players locked arms and knelt during the National Anthem. Some teams stayed in the locker room during the Anthem.
As teams and players protested, the hashtags #ImWithKap and #takeaknee became increasingly popular on Twitter and social media.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to Trump’s comments, saying “divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players.”
Vice President Mike Pence made headlines on October 8th when he left an Indianapolis Colts game when Anthem protests occurred.
“I stand with Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem,” Pence said.
President Trump later made a statement on Twitter that “standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable.”
Trump also condemned fans that support the protests. “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country,” he said on Twitter.
NFL fans have made their voices heard at NFL games. When sitting near the sidelines, one can hear words of encouragement and booing from the crowd.
The players’ protest have begun to divide the United States, as 52% of Americans disapproved of the protest, while 43% approved, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll also stated that 58% of American voters believed Trump’s comments were not OK, while 42% thought they were.
NFL team owners met to discuss the protests and possibly vote on a rule that would require players and coaches to stand for the National Anthem. However, there was never a vote in favor of a rule like this.
The protests have become more important than football. They are a symbol of social justice in America, and there is no end in sight for them.