In 2016, Colin Kaepernick made a life-changing decision that would simultaneously ruin his American-football career and shift his focus to altruism.
Kaepernick chose to sit while the national anthem was being played before a football game. When asked about his decision to sit during the anthem, Kaepernick replied:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color… 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.
His actions, coupled with his rationale, stirred the racial pot in America. It spurred a wide-reaching debate about how he protested, why he protested, and whether or not how he chose to do it was respectful.
In spite of the controversy, the 49ers released a statement in support of his decision:
The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.
The coach himself was later quoted as saying, that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem is “his right as a citizen”. He also added, “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
Take a Knee
If peaceful protests did nothing, the powerful wouldn't try so hard to silence them. #TakeAKnee pic.twitter.com/0aONI66gJF
— NYCLU (@NYCLU) September 23, 2017
A few months later, teammate Eric Reid felt moved to talk to Kaepernick about his protest. He wanted to know how he could help, and what he could do to further the movement.
The two then decided that next time they would kneel during the anthem, rather than stand, to show respect intermingled with dissatisfaction. Reid recently published his side of the story, where he boldly says:
It should go without saying that I love my country and I’m proud to be an American. But, to quote James Baldwin, “exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
I am aware that my involvement in this movement means that my career may face the same outcome as Colin’s. But to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed.
…it’s disheartening and infuriating that [the] President has referred to us with slurs but the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people.”
A Shift in Focus
While America and the rest of the world speculated about his career move, Kaepernick shifted his focus to philanthropy. In the fall of 2016 he pledged that he would donate $100,000 for 10 months to support the alleviation of social issues
On August 23rd 2017, NY Daily News estimated that Kaepernick had donated $800,000 since that pledge. Kaepernick himself confirmed this when he tweeted:
The Million Dollar Pledge is still going strong! $800k donated, $200k to go! Go to https://t.co/xr8M9wiOiq to see where latest $100k went! pic.twitter.com/Wa8tjjx87v
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) August 22, 2017
Where has this money gone so far? According to Sports Illustrated:
He has donated to Meals on Wheels, a charity that gives suits to parolees and to famine relief in Somalia, among dozens of other charities.
Kapernick has also gotten involved in the community first-hand, hosting a “Know Your Rights Camp” in cities around the country to inspire youth and teach them about proper interactions with law enforcement.
Despite a successful closeout to his 2016 football season, and a commitment to philanthropy, Kaepernick officially opted out of his contract with the 49ers, and has remained unsigned since.
While many teams dance around the issue of whether or not to work with him, estimates say that the athlete moving the most merchandise out of NFL stores is none other than the so-called most hated NFL player — while unemployed!
The best selling 49ers player in merchandise from March thru May was Colin Kaepernick, who was no longer on the team. pic.twitter.com/wW4d1xH2tw
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 22, 2017
So if all this happened a whole year ago, you might be wondering why it’s just now exploded. After all, Kaepernick started his protests under the presidency of Barack Obama and received no threatening remarks from President 44 for his actions.
The current President was not as understanding, and during a speech in Alabama, he gave the NFL and their players, a piece of his mind. He complained that the players who chose to kneel were ruining the game, and that they should all be fired.
But what really tipped the boat was when he added, on video:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.
Since then, Reid and Kaepernick’s decision to kneel has regained its spotlight in the media, and even has its own hashtag on Twitter: #TakeAKnee. This has brought both an increase in backlash and support.
Since Taking a Knee is Disrespectful
The most controversial response came from the Steelers, who chose to exercise the old tradition of remaining in their locker rooms during the national anthem. Whether they knelt, stood, or danced inside, no one really knows.
The Steelers will not take the field for the national anthem today. Team is in "100% unification" on decision.
📺 | @StaceyDales pic.twitter.com/van2a49zCe
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 24, 2017
This created a bit of a bind for the people who insisted that taking a knee was disrespectful to the flag, and the anthem. As one tweep put it:
What's better than taking a knee? Marking yourself absent and turning your back on racism! Proud of you Steelers! #TakeTheKnee #Solidarity
— DesignGuru (@JenDesigns) September 24, 2017
— CINDY, MS, MSW 🏳️🌈 (@coastclark) September 25, 2017
Since Taking a Knee Creates Disunity
When the backlashers went on to say that the decision was creating disunity, football players responded by locking arms during the national anthem. Many knelt during this time; but even more impressive is the fact that teams remained with arms locked together, even when some chose to stand, and some chose to kneel.
One NFL executive responded to this, saying, “If [the President] thought he could divide the NFL, he was wrong.”
Since Taking a Knee Disrespects Veterans
Many veterans and their family members also took to social media to declare their support for Kaepernick’s right to protest — whether they were in agreement with his message, or not. The most impressive came from a 97-year-old WWII vet.
My grandpa is a 97 year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join w/ those who #TakeaKnee: "those kids have every right to protest." pic.twitter.com/LurCj7SLUB
— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) September 24, 2017
If Not This — Then What?
The time we're wasting policing HOW they chose to protest could be much better spent on resolving the issues behind WHY they chose to.
— Shadow the PR Cat (@ShadowThePRcat) September 24, 2017
Kaepernick very clearly explained in early 2016 that he was protesting police brutality and prejudice against “people of color”. But obviously, those who do not support his cause are singing a totally different tune.
Eric Reid, himself, addresses this issue in his published piece on the NY Times. He says:
It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.
Some might point out that something that is not intentional wrong, can be wrong all the same, and this is true. But as one Twitter user posted earlier this week, “If not this way, then how?”
Blacks and other minorities trying to raise awareness have forever been met by hostility. This is true even when the messenger is Queen Bey, whilst performing at Super Bowl.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been branded “the Black KKK”. And meanwhile, the actual KKK recently regained its confidence and took to the streets.
I’ll be the first to point out that both sides has some misguided people in their midst, but it’s important to focus on the message and the real issue at hand. We cannot afford to become distracted by semantics, personal discomfort, and a few bad apples.
Supporting True Democracy
America has always prided itself on being the land of the free — supported by rights and freedoms. Whether or not I agree with Kaepernick’s message, I do believe it’s important to accept his right to protest in any peaceful way he chooses.
That is democracy, especially in a simultaneously multicultural and segregated society where everyone won’t always agree. In fact, will we ever? One Twitter user summed this up best when he quoted J. Kander:
Patriotism isn't about making everyone stand & salute the flag.
Patriotism is about making this a country where everyone wants to.
— Greenspring (@GreenSpringRise) September 24, 2017
Are you an Ostrich?
Still, many people remain tight-lipped about the social issues and resulting protest. Others open their mouths to discredit the fact that these issues exist, and to complain that politics has worked its way too far into social media and the football field.
What I’ve learned from the past 2 years of enduring this in America — as a Black, female immigrant — is that the people who are most content to bury their heads in the sand and wait for discontent to blow over are usually the people who are not directly affected by inequality.
They will do charity runs for cancer when their wife succumbs to the illness; or join a women’s march in D.C., when they are the one discriminated against in the office because of their gender.
But then turn a blind eye to instances when someone else is the victim. Most of these people consider themselves to be inherently good, but to reiterate Reid’s quoting of Martin Luther King Jr.:
A time comes when silence is betrayal
— CINDY, MS, MSW 🏳️🌈 (@coastclark) September 25, 2017
So while a lot of Americans continue to debate everything from the veracity of race-baited police brutality to whether or not Kaepernick’s form of protest is respectful — I’ve been enjoying my own private joke.
Today, I’ll share it with you:
If I could name two Americans in 2017 who have actively and consistently put brains, brawn, and bank accounts toward MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, I would name Barack Obama and Colin Kaepernick.
Find me on:
43 thoughts on “In The Land of the Free Anyone Can Choose to Take Knee”
I did check my website on my android phone and it was clearly viewable and checked my blog pages, too, via wordpress app, saw place to click for my about page and saw that and my blog posts clearly. I have an older Samsung . So thanks for the heads up to check on them. Sorry things don’t show up well or fully on your phone.
Best wishes on your travels and business.
I’ll keep you in mind for future projects.
Thank you, Katelon. What kind of projects are you referring to?
On my about page it talks about them and on my website listed on my about page.
I’m trying to catch up on comments at the moment, so I’m asking you. I won’t have time to check that about page anytime soon. Can’t agree to be a part of what I don’t know anything about 😊
Never asked you to agree Alexis. YOU followed my blog, Wichita is what led me to your blog. When someone follows my blog, I assume they have read it and enjoyed it, hence decided to follow it. ON my blog is my about page, and links to my public website. There is nothing there to hurt you as you assume. I was being thoughtful and respectful in checking out your blog as you followed mine. I was also being open in commenting via comments, and thought, well, here is.someone I might want to contact for PR when my projects have funding. You asked, so I shared where you could see what my projects are…ON my blog that YOU followed. NOT asking you to agree to anything. My comment was I’ll keep you in mind ie I’ll contact YOU in future if I decide to use your services. I’m finished with commenting. Best wishes.
Katelon, I’m really surprised by this response to be honest.
I use the WordPress Android app to browse WP blogs. Not my computer. The app doesn’t usually show web pages, like about me pages and such. It shows blog posts.
When I click on your icon, it doesn’t load a regular list of blog posts. It loads a web page that isn’t in a mobile-friendly format, so I can’t read it from my phone. I’m in bed, having been up working all night, and will likely not make it to my PC anytime soon. That is why I asked you to explain. Also, you commented on a political post about your project, and my firm does not work on political projects, which is the second reason I asked you to clarify.
I wasn’t trying to offend you or be disrespectful. People are usually quite thrilled to explain their work to me. If that’s not the case with you, then I apologise for asking.
I don’t follow people because of their blogs. I follow people because of discussions I’ve seen them in on blogs I follow, and the stance they held in the discussions. I gather that if I enjoyed their discussions, I’ll enjoy seeing their posts in my feed.
All the best to you.
My about page is ON my blog and should be available via your app. I do not want to go into details about my projects via comments on a blog. That is not the way to do business. I was simply stating, in response to your comment about your PR firm, that I’d keep you in mind when I am ready to hire an PR firm. At that point, I would then contact you or whoever I decided to hire, and call them and more completely discuss my projects, find out what the PR firm did, see if it is a fit. So I just suggested you check out my about page on my blog if you wanted more info. I was not signing up to hire you, just letting you know I’d make note of your biz and contact you in the future if I was interested.
Maybe is is an age difference, but I am not used to long discussions on a blog comment thread. I also assumed that people followed blogs because they want to read them. I’m learning differently now. Good luck to you.
Katelon, I think you misunderstand me. I’m not sure it’s so much generational, as much as perhaps not really understanding the technicalities of how WordPress and their Android app works.
WordPress differentiates blog posts from site pages (or web pages). Your About Me page would be a site page, not a blog post, even though it is on your blog. Thus, the app does not display it. Your website or blog is also not currently mobile-optimised, so I can’t read it from my phone. It doesn’t fit on my screen.
I didn’t say I don’t follow blogs to read them. I said I follow blogs because the author interests me, and I look forward to seeing their posts in my feed. One of the things I’ve always kept at the forefront in PR is that products (including blogs) are owned and run and made by and made for PEOPLE. So people are always more important to me. Their work comes second.
I’m quite used to long discussions for work and play in the comments of my blog. 90% of my business comes from here. However, if you would prefer to send an email, you may do so via my contact page. If you would prefer not to discuss this further, then no offence taken. You can always choose not to reply. But as moderator on my websites, I reply to all comments.
Happy Halloween! 😊
I dont understand what you saying regarding my blog and website not available on a phone? I see them fine on my phone. I look at blogs on my phone and laptop. Again, perhaps it is generational but I prefer my laptop to using my phone for everything. I’ve never heard from anyone else that my sites are unavailable on a phone.
It’s okay, Katelon. Have a great Halloween. 🙂
Wonderful post. I’ve been an activist all my life and will never give up until all are free.
I’m glad to hear it, Kate! And thank you ^_^
I was bracing myself for a lot of backlash for this one, but it was surprisingly well-received. Glad to know I don’t have a lot of Ostriches on my blog!
Yes, I understand. I set up comments on my blog so I have to approve them. My experiences and work are so out of the norm, I don’t need to deal with Ostriches. Oh..and FYI…my name is Katelon, not Kate:)
If you read my latest post you’ll see that I believe in stepping out with truth. I appreciate you doing so, too.
Oh, thought that was an addition for a username. Thanks for the correction. Never heard that name before! Any history behind it?
I’m not too concerned about the comments. I only approve the first one, and then let the others from that user go through. I get dozens every day, so that would get hectic, and this is just one blog of 4. I own a PR firm, so I manage several others, too. I do try to respond to all of them though.
If it’s really offensive, it’s usually by a first-time commenter, and that gets held anyway. So far so good on that!
Will definitely keep an eye out for your posts. 🙂
Busy woman…4 blogs, wow! My name is spelled differently for numerology. It is pronounced like the name Caitlon..or Kaitlin.
And yes, I own a PR firm and blogging falls under my portfolio. The company has its own, plus our college branch, our indie author branch, and then my personal blog. And…I’m training my team to run a 5th, for our travel services. We also run several for clients. It’s fun work though!