Take a knee: the movement from the NFL and beyond


author: ethan williams | staff writer

From Colin Kaepernick, to the Roughriders, athletes have been taking a knee in protest in the last few weeks./Shea Huening

Athletes’ protests garner attention internationally

What started as a simple protest by then-San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick has now become a national, and even international movement. Not only has the kneeling movement garnered attention from the public and the press, it has also enraged fans of all sports around the globe who feel that athletes are disrespecting their country by not standing during the national anthem.

For starters, let’s look at how this all began. At the time, Kaepernick had been enjoying success with the San Fran football team. He threw a career high number of yards in 2013, and signed a lucrative contract extension with them the following year. However, after struggling to maintain his first string status in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, things began to look grim.

Then, in late August 2016, Kaepernick, according to a story from Bleacher Report, was seen sitting on the bench during the US National Anthem. Interviewed after the game, Kaepernick explained the reason he took a seat.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick received a mixed reception for his actions, including praise for him for standing up for the Black Lives Matter movement, and criticism from those that were offended that he would not rise and show respect for his country. Eventually, the controversy took a year off, with heat toward Kaepernick dying down and media attention drawing away from the then-49er’s QB. Just last month though, things heated up again when United States President Donald Trump encouraged the owners of NFL teams to fire players who do not stand for the national anthem, as outlined in his tweets.

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired,” Trump was quoted, as saying in terms of what NFL owners should be doing when a player does not stand.

Soon after this comment, other teams began showing their support for Kaepernick, and the kneeling movement became more of a protest toward Trump in addition to the support of Black Lives Matter. Teams had also started to link arms, with some teams linking arms with team owners, to show that NFL players would not be fired for protesting. Other NFL teams joined the movement, such as the Dallas Cowboys, before their home game on September 25. They then locked arms before the anthem itself.

Additionally, the protests began to spread throughout other leagues. In the NHL, San Jose Sharks right-winger Joel Ward considered kneeling before a game. Interviewed by the Mercury News, Ward said he hadn’t ruled it out.

“I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence. I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it.”

Even here at home the anthem protests have had their effect. During the September 24 home game, the Riders locked arms during “O Canada” as a show of support for their American counterparts. A statement from the Riders organization read in part:

“As an organization, we stand alongside our players and support their individual right to freedom of speech and their beliefs.”

The controversy is not expected to die down anytime soon. Even as recent as October 1, players were seen kneeling before Sunday (October 1st, 2017) games, as well as during “The Star Spangled Banner” itself. During a game between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints, the entire Saints team took a knee shortly before the game’s start, and three Dolphins (Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and Julius Thomas) were seen on the televised broadcast kneeling during the anthem, according to the New York Times.

Sunday’s actions by players and coaches seemed to go against a tweet that Trump sent out on September 30, in which he touched on the kneeling controversy once more.

“Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our Country!” the tweet read. Its all peaches and roses from the sports world this week.

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