Miami Dolphins players – Kenny Stills and Albert Watson were the only two players to kneel during the national anthem during the NFL’s opening on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick, who is no longer playing in the NFL, made sure to share his thanks with them via social media. In fact, he went as far as to call them brothers. Kaepernick’s said this in his tweet:
“My Brothers (Stills) and (Watson) continue to show their unwavering strength by fighting for the oppressed. They have not backed down, even when attacked and intimidated. … Love is at the root of our resistance.”
There has been a lot of controversy over kneeling during the last two years. Donald Trump has even gotten involved. What’s interesting to me is that while the cause is to fight for the oppressed, as Kaepernick explains, others are making it about the military. While I’m not going to get into that in this post, I do think its worth mentioning. It speaks to how people, in general, view situations differently. One side views this as a way to protest police brutality, and another views it as taking a stance against freedom.
Getting back to the protests. After Kaepernick opted out of his contract, he hasn’t been able to land another contract with an NFL team and is now suing the league for collusion. And as you know, his voice is still being heard. Last week, Nike introduced an ad featuring Kaepernick, along with the message, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” A fan in Cleveland during the Steelers-Browns game was spotted wearing a Kaepernick jersey.
While Stills and Watson were kneeling during the anthem, teammate Robert Quinn raised his fist. Niners receiver Marquise Goodwin did the same at San Francisco’s game at Minnesota. Before the late games, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Brandon Marshall, and Seahawks linemen Duane Brown and Quinton Jefferson, retreated to their respective tunnels while the anthem played. In Los Angeles, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung raised his fist.
The NFL had a policy in place in May regarding the anthem, but they quickly rescinded it in order for the league and the players union to negotiate. All of the reactions that took place on Sunday were familiar, if not identical to what these players did during last season’s games. Both CBS and Fox, who carried Sunday afternoon’s games said that they didn’t plan on televising the anthem. And I guess that’s one solution?
NBC, on the other hand, did show the anthem on Thursday night, but no players kneeled or protested in other ways. But it’s not really about the anthem anymore, is it? And I think that’s been Kaepernick’s rationale all along. What it’s done is prompted a lot of players to attempt to look inward – both to themselves as well as their communities to promote change. It’s not necessarily about kneeling during the national anthem. It’s about looking at systemic issues that continue to plague communities throughout America. And if that’s the goal, I think Kaepernick has been successful with his approach. As the Nike ad indicates, in doing so, he’s sacrificed everything, but that sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed.