It began during the 2016 football season when the former San Francisco 49er quarterback Collin Kaepernick sat on the bench as the national anthem played before the start of a game. When asked about his decision to stay seated during the nation’s national anthem, Kaepernick stated that he wasn’t “going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
When critics tried to brand Kaepernick’s actions as unpatriotic and disrespectful, he remained unapologetic in his stance that his protest was one rooted in social and racial inequality at the hands of police officers and had nothing to do with a lack of respect for members of the U.S. military.
As the 2017-2018 NFL season kicked off, players from several teams across the country could be seen locking arms in solidarity, kneeling or sitting during the singing of the national anthem. Like Kaepernick, who is currently suing NFL owners for conspiring to keep the controversial player from being signed to a team, these players are also facing a growing criticism from everyone from a very vocal President Trump to their fans.
Last fall, in an attempt to quiet the protesting players, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell make a public announcement stating that all players should stand for the playing of the national anthem. While Goodell stopped short of enacting an official NFL rule requiring players to stand, his message was received loud and clear by the players. Still, many players continued to protest against police violence, misconduct and brutality by raising a fist, bending a knee or refusing to stand as the national anthem played in stadiums throughout the country.
In late November, the NFL, team owners and the Players Coalition, reached a deal that the league will to provide almost $90 million in funding for community activism programs in primarily African American communities through the year 2023. While the NFL league and team owners likely made the deal hoping it would bring an end to protests by players, many have persisted in their fight to raise awareness of the pervasive racism that plagues many police departments throughout the country.
Do you think the protests by the NFL players are effective?