NFL Players and the Flag: Two Years On

If there was ever any question that the wheels of justice turn slowly, the continuing controversy over NFL players, the national anthem, and racial injustice has provided the answer. It’s at once hard and not so hard to believe that we are still having this conversation almost two years after Colin Kaepernick first decided to take a knee during the national anthem before a 2016 pre-season game in response to the disproportionate numbers of black people being killed by police.

People of color are still being shot just for the crime of being black. And they’re being arrested for the crime of sitting in a Starbucks while black, and they are having the police called on them for the offenses of napping in their dormitory lounge while black, and moving into their apartment while black.

And still we continue to object to the very idea of players exercising their right to protest racial injustice.

In April, Kaepernick was recognized with the Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience 2018 award for his courage and activism. I hope you can spare a few minutes to listen to the important words of his acceptance speech:

And just last week, the NFL owners approved a new policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance of the anthem (but also give them the option to remain in the locker room during the performance).

And through it all people continue to spout the tired and completely incorrect line that players who kneel are showing disrespect for members of our armed services —those brave men and women who fight and die to protect the very freedoms that NFL players are exercising. The “Standers” stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that black and brown people have the right to speak out against injustice. Indeed they seem to object to the very idea that people of color should even recognize that injustice is occurring, especially when it makes white people uncomfortable.

Here’s what I said about the anthem “controversy” back in 2016 and 2017. I still feel the same way today. Please read my posts Taking a Knee and The Flag Stands For Our Right Not to Stand.


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