Once Colin Kaepernick started the protest kneeling trend, it spread like rapid fire throughout the sports world. It spread so far that even high school, middle school, and youth league athletes started protesting. This protest due to racial injustice and police brutality cases that had been seen throughout the United States. Not only did this protest begin a conversation about race in American, “but about what it means to be a patriot” (Gibbs). After Kaepernicks initial protest, which began during a pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers, approximately 50 players from over 13 NFL teams joined in on the protest. It then spread to US women’s soccer when star Megan Rapinoe decided to kneel during the National Anthem of a game while playing for her country. The result of this, US soccer banned kneeling during the National Anthem. This includes players, coaches, and anyone that’s a part of the national team. Most importantly, the spread of this to youth leagues, high school, and middle schools might be the biggest aspect of this. Most kids around that age have no idea what politics even consist of. They don’t know what party they are part of, what their beliefs are, and most importantly how to fix this problem in today’s society. Athletes are now some of the biggest role models for kids growing up and can shape what a kid wants to do in life. While it’s good that kids are becoming aware of politics from this protest, kids should first gain political beliefs from their parents and their community. “These protests have inspired far more than controversy — they’ve inspired conversations among people of all ages, races, and backgrounds” (Gibbs). However, not all these protest have ended up resulting in peace. Kids as young as 11 years old have received death threats, athletes have lost endorsements, and now Colin Kaepernick may not even have a team to play for in the NFL next year. In 2013 Kaepernick led the 49ers to an appearance in the Super Bowl and was looked at as a bright young star in San Fransisco. However, today he still remains a free-agent due to the fact that no teams want the image he has created upon himself on their team. By looking at the protesting cases that came after Kaepernick, it’s possible that these protest could’ve ultimately had more of a negative effect than a positive effect.
Eric Reid was the first who joined Kaepernick in the protest by kneeling next to him against the San Diego Chargers while the National Anthem was being played. Reid who is the teams players union representative believed strongly in what Kaepernick was doing and wanted to support him. "Reid said his decision to join Kaepernick had nothing to do with his standing in the NFLPA, and he did not inform the 49ers before joining Kaepernick because he didn't feel supporting Kaepernick would be detrimental to the team' (Wagoner). Reid simply just wanted to help spark conversation about the social injustices that happen daily in the United States. Overall, it seems they sparked conversation, however, are the conversations going to fix the problem?
Arian Foster (seen above #29) was joined by his teammates Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and Jelani Jenkis in kneeling for the National Anthem before a game against the Seattle Seahawks. This was Foster's first year with the Dolphins and many criticized him saying it wasn't the right time for him to be joining in on the protest. However, Foster doesn't see the kneeling to be disrespectful. ""I don't think it was any lack of respect. I think everybody here — our team and our whole organization — respects the flag and what it stands for, and the soldiers and everything. But these guys are making a conversation of something that's a very important topic in this country, and I'm 100% supportive of them" (Middlehurts-Schwartz). Whether this was the right way or wrong way to protest, Foster felt compelled to join the protest after reflecting on the matter. He has been known to speak out on issues in sports over his 8 year career in the NFL. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross even told the players he supported them after their loss that Sunday.
This was the second case of Brandon Marshall kneeling for the National Anthem in support of the protest going around the NFL. His first instance was against the Carolina Panthers and this instance seen above was against the Indianapolis Colts on September 18, 2016. Between the two teams Marshall was the only player to kneel during the National Anthem. “I wanted to really show that I’m not deterred by the loss of endorsements. It’s not going to make me change my message. It’s not going to make me feel any differently about what the issues are,” Marshall said. “I wanted to send that message again that I’m not afraid of any penalty because I’m going to do what I believe" (Wolfe). Marshall also decided to donate $300 for every tackle he got during the season to "organizations committed to helping better causes he finds important" (Wolfe). In my opinion, donations like this and actions taken throughout these players communities are what will really help make a change.
The protest ends up making it's way to a national stage when USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe decided to join in before a 9-0 win against Thailand. There are two major causes for concern here. She's white and can't relate to the problems African Americans are dealing with throughout the United States. Also, she's wearing the flag on her chest and as a national team player she should represent her country in the best way possible. Rapinoe has described this instance "as a gesture of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others protesting social inequalities" (Hays). Supposedly, the way she relates to this matter is the fact that she's gay and wants to not only support the inequalities of African Americans, but also, the inequalities of homosexuals in the United States. Fellow players decided not to join her and this instance got nearly no reaction from the crowd. "My impact right now is being able to have conversations in my community," Rapinoe said. "I live in a very white world, and I think the conversations I have been able to open up just with my family and my friends and the people around me and the people I work with has been tremendous. I feel like that's my part right now" (Hays). If her impact truly is having conversations in her community than that's where it needs to take place. Not on the pitch of a national soccer game while representing her country. I believe the U.S. soccer officials would agree with me on that statement, seeing that they enacted a rule which requires players to stand for the National Anthem.
Up to this day, Colin Kaepernick has yet to be signed to a new NFL team after the 49ers decided not to resign him after the 2016 season. Not only has he not been signed, he hasn't even been invited to visit a team yet. This fact institutes the belief that something more than football is influencing this decision. Kaepernick is looked at as having a lack of respect towards the American flag and the police officers in our country. Although he succeeded in his goal of striking up conversation, he now has no job and nothing has changed much in this country regarding social injustices. Actions like Brandon Marshall donating money for every tackle will have much more of an impact than kneeling. Being involved in communities and teaching kids at a young age how to deal with/prevent these injustices from happening could have the greatest effect on this issue. Overall, I believe there is a time and place for everything. Protesting the National Anthem on the biggest sports stages in the world is not one of them.
1. This source mentions multiple cases of players pretesting in the NFL following the movement Kaepernick started. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/09/12/nfl-protests-during-national-anthem-responses/
2. This sources talks about Megan Rapinoe and her first two instances of kneeling in protest. This explains why she’s doing and how she plans to keep on kneeling. http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/17558219/us-soccer-midfielder-megan-rapinoe-kneels-again-national-anthem-friendly
3. This source explains the rule that US soccer enacted that requires all players to stand after Megan Rapinoe started to protest the National Anthem. http://www.oregonlive.com/fifa-world-cup/index.ssf/2017/03/us_soccer_enacts_rules_requiri.html
4. This source discusses why Eric Reid decided to kneel next to his teammate Colin Kaepernick to protest the National Anthem. http://www.espn.com/blog/san-francisco-49ers/post/_/id/19132/why-eric-reid-decided-to-kneel-with-colin-kaepernick
5. This source shows Arian Foster kneeling protesting and has tweets from Foster explaining why he thinks its ok for them to protest. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/dolphins/2016/09/11/arian-foster-colin-kaepernick-national-anthem-protest/90245584/
6. This source talks about how Brandon Marshall decided to kneel again protesting when the Broncos played the Colts. http://www.denverpost.com/2016/09/18/brandon-marshall-kneels-national-anthem-colts/
7. This source has a lot of information regarding the protest and talks about the effects it has had across the world. Positive and negative. https://thinkprogress.org/national-anthem-sports-protest-tracker-kaepernick-284ff1d1ab3e