By Abigail Pinterparsons
When Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem on Aug. 13th, 2016, he said he did not want to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“This is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he said.
Barack Obama, then president, said Kaepernick was “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.”
Kaepernick’s protests continued into this year’s NFL season and gained support from other athletes. Many now choose to sit or kneel during the national anthem; others choose to lock arms or put a hand on a teammate’s shoulder. All are symbols protesting racial inequality in America.
President Donald J. Trump takes issue with the peaceful protests. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field now. Out. Out. He’s fired!’” He told a rally on Friday.
On Sunday, he tweeted “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
When players sit, kneel, lock arms, put a hand on a shoulder, or raise a fist, they are trying to peacefully protest racial injustices in America. It’s to represent those who don’t have a platform and a voice.
It’s not a display of disrespect to veterans, those who currently serve, or the symbol of the American flag. It’s a showing of support, respect, and unity across all people.
Some NFL figures who were previously quiet on the matter spoke up in response to Trump’s tweets.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said “No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech.”
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who gave President Trump an engraved Super Bowl ring after the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win and donated to his campaign, released a statement proclaiming he is “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”
Seattle Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin released a statement saying “We fully support our players’ use of their freedom of speech and peaceful action to highlight the existing racial and other divides in our country.” On Sunday, the entire Seahawks team did not participate in the national anthem.
A record setting 27 players and staff took a knee during the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens game. Additionally, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan locked arms with his players in a sign of unity.
The majority of Washington Redskins players locked arms while their opponents, the Oakland Raiders, sat on the bench on primetime Sunday Night Football.
Singer Rico Lavelle sang the anthem for the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons game. As he neared the end of the anthem, he got down on one knee. When he finished, he raised his fist in the air.
Peaceful protests occurred during the game as well. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman each raised their fists after scoring a touchdown.
By the end of Sunday, over 100 players had demonstrated. Many knelt, locked arms, or sat. Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy opted to stretch during the anthem.
Athletes protesting during the national anthem aren’t seeking permission or validation from anyone. They’re doing it because they believe in the message behind the kneeling and other forms of protests.
Kaepernick isn’t “looking for approval” from the president or anyone else. “I know I stood up for what was right,” he said.
Recently President Trump called neo-Nazis “some very fine people.” He called black football player a “son of a bitch.”
“Guess that makes me a proud bitch,” Colin Kaepernick’s mother wrote on Twitter.