An American footballer makes a protest

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An American footballer makes a protest

Mark Engler writes about how one man’s protest has an effect around the US.

The San Francisco 49ers is an American football team. On 26 August 2016, just before a game against the Green Bay Packers, one of their team, Colin Kaepernick made a famous decision. He did not stand during the singing of the national anthem. He knelt.


Daniel Gluskoter/Associated Press

Kaepernick explained that it was a protest against racism and police brutality against African Americans. He said, ‘To me, this is bigger than football and it would be wrong for me to look the other way, There are bodies in the street and people are getting away with murder.’

But some people thought Kaepernick was unpatriotic. Since 9/11, the national anthem before a game is now an act of patriotism. The Department of Defence has given millions of dollars to professional sports teams to support this.

Of course there are always a lot of critics who say people are protesting in the wrong way. Some liberals said Kaepernick was not showing respect.

But Kaepernick knelt before other games and the positive points were clear. A reporter in the New York Times wrote, ‘Show a photo of Kaepernick’s protest to someone who has never seen a football game or heard the national anthem or has no idea about race relations in this country, and they will understand it.’

And what is important is that people can copy the protest.

When it seemed that Kaepernick was p;ossibly one of the most hated sports people in America, something interesting happened. Eric Reed, another player for the San Francisco 49ers did the same thing. ‘I wanted him to know that he’s not the only person who feels what he feels,’ Reed said.

Other American footballers did the same thing. Arian Foster from the Miami Dolphins asked many of his team to protest. And Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs raised his fist during the anthem like the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.

By the middle of September, there were many, many protests in different sports. Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who is white, knelt to protest. She said, ‘Everyone needs to protest about problems in our country, not only people of colour.’ In women’s basketball, all of Indiana Fever team knelt before a game.

High-school sports teams did the same. In Oakland, members of the school band knelt together as they played the anthem. A singer knelt before a Sacramento Kings basketball game. Even fans have knelt.

The New York Times wrote that after two months hundreds of Kaepernicks are kneeling everywhere. A lot of conservative football fans do not agree with Kaepernick but Kaepernick’s #7 jersey is selling fast. In social movements, there are always discussions about the best way to protest. The protesters have every right to talk about which kinds of protest help and which do not help.

But it is not right for people to criticise others’ protests but to do nothing themselves. All the many people who follow Kaepernick’s example show that these people are wrong. Hundreds of Kaepernicks kneel everywhere.

Mark Engler’s new book is This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-first Century (Nation Books). You can contact him on: