When Colin Kaepernick of the San Fransisco 49ers sat during the national anthem in the preseason games of August 2016, no one could have predicted the overwhelming response it would receive from spectators.
The spotlight came after writer for Niners Nation, Jennifer Lee Chan, tweeted a picture of the team’s formation during the third game. The photo showed Kaepernick seated on the bench, while the rest of the members stood for the anthem.
A few days later, the 29-year-old quarterback was asked why he chose to remain seated and his response would spark both support and criticism across the country.
Kaepernick said during a press conference,
“When there’s significant change and I feel that the flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand”, via NFL.com.
This protest is not about the flag. It is about oppression and police brutality.
Kaepernick chose to sit in support of people of color who face these realties everyday in America, he said in an exclusive interview with NFL media.
“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.”
The protest has gained participation from people across the nation, including college athletes and other former and current players, but Kaepernick himself has taken a few personal losses.
Since gaining the public eye, the once promising athlete lost his starting position with the 49ers and his endorsements. He is now a free agent.
He may have also lost a few fans, including the president of the United States, who is fed up with the protest.
In a tweet, President Trump wrote, “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!”
Despite his warning, more players have joined the protest.
More NFL players, officials, and athletes of other sports, have begun taking a knee or linking ams to show their support.
On the Sunday following the President’s remarks, the entire Baltimore Ravens team linked arms and took a knee during the anthem in London. Later in Pittsburgh, the Steelers stayed in the locker room.
Kaepernick continues to protest racial injustice, despite essentially being blacklisted from the NFL.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed,” Kaepernick said. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”