Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests, but has now been joined by athletes from around the sports world | Mark Sandritter
(October 11) – The most noteworthy part of a national anthem before a sporting event used to be a great singing performance or a riveting flyover. Colin Kaepernick changed that. All eyes during the anthem are now on the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and other athletes who have joined him in sitting or kneeling during the anthem.
Kaepernick began sitting during the national anthem this preseason. A silent protest to show support for people of color who are being oppressed in the United States, and to take a stand against police brutality. It’s an effort to use his voice and his position as a NFL player to effect change for the people who are suffering, and don’t have the same ability to create significant change.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. “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.”
Initially, Kaepernick was alone in his protest. And unnoticed. His protest didn’t come to light and gain national attention until the third preseason game. Since then, he’s continued on with his protest while being joined by several other NFL players, other professional, college and high school athletes.
Here is a complete timeline of Kaepernick’s protest and the other athletes who has followed suit.
Aug. 14 and Aug. 20 — Kaepernick goes unnoticed while sitting during the anthem
Kaepernick made headlines when he sat during the 49ers third preseason game, but he also sat during the first two games, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Kaepernick wasn’t in uniform and didn’t play during the first two games.
Aug. 26 — Kaepernick gains attention for his protest
There was no grand unveiling of Kaepernick’s sitting protest. Instead, Jennifer Lee Chan of Niners Nation tweeted out a photo of the anthem, unrelated to Kaepernick sitting. The story gained national attention later that night and the 49ers released a statement confirming Kaepernick sat for the anthem.
Kaepernick told the media after the game he sat because of the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality.
Aug. 28 — Kaepernick expands on his reasoning for the protest
Kaepernick met with the media two days after the game and for the first time since the protest gained national attention. He reiterated that he was acting to give a voice to people who didn’t have one.
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
“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.”
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody. That’s something that’s not happening. I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they fought have for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.”
Sept. 1 — Kaepernick takes a knee during the anthem and is joined by teammate Eric Reid
For the first time during his protest, Kaepernick wasn’t alone. San Francisco safety Eric Reid expressed support for Kaepernick prior to the game and showed it during the anthem by joining him in taking a knee.
From the time the protest gained attention, Kaepernick reiterated he was not doing it to be anti-American or anti-military or to disrespect troops. He was doing it to bring serious social issues to light and try to evoke change. That stance led to him slightly adjusting the protest. Kaepernick met with former Green Beret and brief NFL long snapper Nate Boyer, and after the discussion decided to shift from sitting to taking a knee during the anthem.
“We were talking to [Boyer] about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from fighting for our country, but keep the focus on what the issues really are. And as we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee. Because there are issues that still need to be addressed and it was also a way to show more respect to the men and women who fight for this country.”
After the game, Kaepernick announced a plan to donate $1 million to the charities that focus on racial issues.
Sept. 1 — Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks sits during the national anthem
Lane became the first non-teammate to join Kaepernick in protest. He sat on the bench prior to the national anthem in Oakland, just minutes after Kaepernick and Reid took a knee during the anthem in San Diego.
“I wasn’t trying to say anything. Just standing behind Kaepernick,” Lane said following the game. He added that he would keep doing it until he felt like justice was served.
Sept. 4 — Megan Rapinoe kneels during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick
Before the NWSL match between the Seattle Reign and Chicago Red Stars, Rapinoe took a knee during the national anthem, while the rest of her teammates remained standing. She expressed solidarity with Kaepernick, saying that, as a gay American, she knows “what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” and that “it’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this.”
Not everyone in the soccer world was happy with Rapinoe’s actions. Before Sept. 7’s match between the Washington Spirit and the Seattle Reign, the Spirit rescheduled the national anthem to play while both teams were still in their locker rooms, in order to prevent Rapinoe from protesting. “We respectfully disagree with her method of hijacking our organization’s event to draw attention to what is ultimately a personal — albeit worthy — cause,” the Spirit said in an emailed statement. Rapinoe expressed anger over the decision, saying that it was “f**king unbelievable,” and claiming that it was Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s homophobia that influenced the reschedule.
And on Sept. 15, U.S. Soccer expressed disappointment in Rapinoe’s protest, sending out a statement that pleaded for players and coaches to use the national anthem as a moment “to reflect upon the liberties and freedom we all appreciate in this country.” It was an ironic and tone-deaf statement, considering that Rapinoe and Kaepernick’s protests are addressing the reality that, for many marginalized Americans who don’t fit into the “all” category, they lack the opportunity to truly “appreciate” freedom.
Sept. 9 — Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall takes a knee during the national anthem at the NFL regular season opener
Marshall became the first player to take a knee or sit during the anthem prior to a regular season game. He was a college teammate of Kaepernick at the University of Nevada. Like Kaepernick, Marshall said it was about social change.
“I’m not against the military. I’m not against the police or America,” Marshall said, according to the Denver Post. “I’m against social injustice.
“Kaep, he’s using his platform how he wants to use it, to reach the masses,” Marshall said. “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.”
A Colorado credit union and CenturyLink subsequently terminated sponsorship agreements with Marshall.
“While we acknowledge Brandon’s right, we also believe that whatever issues we face, we also occasionally must stand together to show our allegiance to our common bond as a nation,” CenturyLink said in a statement. “In our view, the national anthem is one of those moments. For this reason, while we wish Brandon the best this season, we are politely terminating our agreement with him.”
Sept. 11 — Seahawks, Dolphins, Chiefs and Patriots players demonstrate during nation anthem
The first Sunday of the NFL season took place on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. This made the national anthem ceremonies on that day particularly emotional. Four Dolphins players — running back Arian Foster, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Jelani Jenkins — took a knee during the anthem after standing up for a 9/11 acknowledgment.
After the game, Foster explained that he loves the country and the rights it affords him. He later tweeted “don’t let the love for a symbol overrule the love for your fellow human.”
No Seahawks players took a knee during the anthem, but the entire team did link arms as a way of honoring the flag and continuing the conversation that Kaepernick started.
The Kansas Chiefs locked arms before kickoff of their game with the San Diego Chargers. Cornerback Marcus Peters held up a fist, saying he supported Kaepernick’s efforts to raise awareness to the justice system.
Prior to Sunday Night Football, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett and safety Devin McCourty also raised their fists after the national anthem.
Sept. 12 — Eric Reid kneels alongside Colin Kaepernick. 49ers teammates and Rams players raise their fists
Kaepernick maintained his protest, and was joined by several players set to take the field before Monday Night Football. As expected, safety Eric Reid knelt next to the quarterback during the national anthem, just as he did during the last week of the preseason. 49ers linebacker Eli Harold and safety Antoine Bethea stood, but with their fists raised in the air.
The 49ers players were joined by their opponents. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (No. 94) and wide receiver Kenny Britt (No. 18) also stood with their fists in the air.
After the anthem, Kaepernick was embraced by several of his teammates before the game kicked off.
Sept. 16 — All of Garfield High School’s football players and coaches kneel during the national anthem
Joined by a few players from the West Seattle Wildcats, Garfield High School’s football players and coaches kneeled during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which head coach Joey Thomas said would continue for the rest of the season. Speaking with the Seattle Times, Thomas was candid about racial injustice and the team being compelled to protest the anthem, especially after players learned about the song’s racist third verse:
“Everybody wants to talk about how this is disrespectful to the American flag,” Garfield coach Joey Thomas said. “That’s a smokescreen. How about we talk about the issues people are kneeling and fighting for? If we could start addressing the issues and finding solutions to the issues, we won’t have to kneel.”
Sept. 16 — Twelve high school football players in Sacramento take a knee during the national anthem
Twelve football players from Laguna Creek High School took a knee during the national anthem. According to the Sacramento Bee, a number of parents reportedly told the players to “stand up.” The Elk Grove School District announced in a statement that it would not discipline the students, saying that although it supports standing for the national anthem, it “respects and supports our students’ individual experiences and their right to exercise their freedom of speech and expression protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Sept. 17 — Howard University cheerleaders kneel during the national anthem
Before Howard took on Hampton University at the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, Howard University’s cheerleaders took a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Zachary Johnson, Howard’s executive president for the school of communications, who took the photo, told CNNthat Howard’s players did not kneel, but raised their fists instead.
Johnson: “We can’t even exercise our constitutional right to protest without being criticized,” he said. “It’s a conversation starter.”
Sept. 18 — More 49ers join Kaepernick, Dolphins continue protest
Kaepernick’s teammates Antoine Bethea, Eli Harold, Jaquiski Tartt and Rashard Robinson joined in protesting during the national anthem by raising their right fists ahead of San Francisco’s game vs. the Carolina Panthers.
Meanwhile in Foxboro three of the same Miami Dolphins players continued their protest. Arian Foster, safety Michael Thomas and wide receiver Kenny Stills all kneeled during the anthem.
Sept. 19 — Four Eagles raise their fists during the anthem
Prior to the game, Malcolm Jenkins said the Eagles would protest during the anthem. Jenkins was joined by Steven Means, Ron Brooks and Marcus Smith (not pictured) in raising a fist while standing during the anthem.
Sept. 20 — Honor Band kneels while playing the national anthem before A’s game
In support of Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice, several members of Oakland Unified School District’s Honor Band took a knee while playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It happened toward the end of the song, which you can see in the video below, and you can hear the audience cheering as they kneel.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BKmfCQSAaEz/embed/captioned/?v=7Band director Zack Pitt-Smith said he didn’t know until rehearsal that the band was going to kneel, saying that the idea originally came from a few students and eventually spread around. John Sasaki, a spokesperson for the school district, stated that the organization was “proud” of its students for making the decision to kneel:
“They knew that this was a controversial issue across our nation, and yet they decided to go ahead with their protest knowing it would not be well-received by some Americans.”
Sept. 20 — Marshawn Lynch expresses support for Colin Kaepernick
During his appearance on Conan, Marshawn Lynch was asked about his thoughts on Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Lynch said he’d rather see Kaepernick “take a knee than stand up, put his hands up, and get murdered.”
Sept. 21 — Iman Shumpert announces he will raise money for families impacted by police fatalities
On his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Shumpert announced that, for every steal he makes during the 2016-17 NBA season, he will donate money to organizations that aim to “improve the struggle between the badge and the citizen.” While showing support for Kaepernick, he also noted that he would not be kneeling during the national anthem, despite originally hinting at it in a song he released on Sept. 16 titled “His Story,” saying “I no longer believe taking a knee is the answer.”
Sept. 21 — Entire Indiana Fever team and two Phoenix Mercury players kneel during the national anthem
Before the first game of the WNBA playoffs, every player on the Indiana Fever locked arms and kneeled during the national anthem, while the Mercury’s Kelsey Bone and Mistie Bass joined them on the other side. Afterward, Fever coach Stephanie White told her team that she was “proud of y’all for doing that together.”
Sept. 22 — Colin Kaepernick is featured on the cover of Time magazine
Time premiered the cover for its Oct. 3 issue, featuring Kaepernick kneeling in his full 49ers uniform. The issue includes a cover story from Sean Gregory, where Kaepernick’s protest is a centerpiece in a larger conversation among athletes regarding sports activism and patriotism.
Sept. 22 — Houston’s Duane Brown raises a fist while standing during the national anthem
Brown didn’t play due to an injury, but did participate in the protest for the first time this season. He had been vocal about recent police shootings, according to Aaron Wilson.
Oct. 1 — Members of East Carolina University’s band kneel during the anthem
Before East Carolina took on the University of Central Florida, a few members of ECU’s band took a knee during the national anthem. People in the crowd noticed, and the response was split between students and alum.
When it came time for the band to perform at halftime, there were many boos directed at them.
ECU chancellor Cecil Staton issued a statement shortly after, saying that the school “respects the rights of our students, staff and faculty to express their personal views.”
Oct. 4 – Rockets, Knicks and Celtics stand united during the anthem
The Rockets and Knicks opened the preseason joined arm in arm.
The Celtics also showed unity as a team, standing together with their arms crossed and heads down.
Oct. 11 – Singer Leah Tysse takes a knee while signing the national anthem prior to a Kings game
Tysse knelt while singing the the lyric “land of the free, home of the brave.” Here is part of what she said about the decision.
This act embodies the conflict many of us feel. I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans. I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability.
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