Kneeling in Protest: Kaepernick and Civil Disobedience

Written by Jesse Rice

On August fourteenth, during the first week of the NFL preseason, Colin Kaepernick began his protest of injustice against minorities by refusing to stand during the national anthem (SB Nation). By September twelfth, the end of the first week of regular season, 13 NFL players across different teams had joined his silent protest (SB Nation) (CBS Sports).

Kaepernick’s decision has provoked controversy throughout America. Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer spoke out against Kaepernick, stating that his actions are dividing his team (which teammates deny) (Yahoo News). US Representative Steve King criticized Kaepernick for undercutting American patriotism (USA Today).

Others have reacted differently, supporting Kaepernick for protesting police brutality. Athletes of multiple sports have joined Kaepernick’s cause, though some still disagree with his methods (CBS Sports). Five NFL players chose, instead, to protest by raising a fist during or after the national anthem (CBS Sports).

A poll conducted September sixth through twelfth found that 61 percent of Americans disagreed with Kaepernick’s stance, while 72 percent found his action unpatriotic. However, despite any personal beliefs, 64 percent of Americans still felt that Kaepernick should not be penalized for his protest (CBS Sports).

This action of civil disobedience has caused some to invoke Martin Luther King, Jr. in reference to the Kaepernick situation. Clemson Football Coach Dabo Swinney referenced King when he stated that, while Kaepernick had every right to protest, “a press conference would make the same point.” (AL). Exavier Pope decided to take this comparison literally and used Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail to comment on Kaepernick’s situation (Twitter Moments). Through a series of tweets, Pope took excerpts from Dr. King’s Letter and used them to counter Kaepernick’s critics.

See for the live tweets.

Colin Kaepernick has said that he doesn’t “want to kneel forever.” (USA Today). However, significant changes will have to be made before he will stop. Over the last few weeks, Kaepernick has been speaking with lawyers and activists to put together a “list of desired policy changes.” (USA Today). Kaepernick has stated that he is encouraged by the support he has received and the cultural conversation he has been able to start (USA Today). For the present, however, he will continue to kneel.




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