The Issue of Kneeling

-By, Sindhu Krishnamurthy

On August 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, kneeled while the National Anthem played at his third preseason game. He had sat for the previous two games as well, but it was at the third game that people began to notice what he was doing. He explained that he was speaking out against unfair treatment of colored people and the abuse of power within the police force.

Response to Kaepernick is mixed. While most people agree that he had the right to sit for the anthem, many do not approve of his actions. “I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag. If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag, get… out, that’s what I think,” remarked Mike Dikta, a former Bears coach. NFL clarified, however, that “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Indeed, Colin Kaepernick was not the first athlete to protest against the national anthem. During the 1968 Olympics, American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the national anthem to acknowledge racial inequality, and they were supported by Australian runner Peter Norman as well. There was huge backlash against their actions, and they even received death threats. However, they succeeded in making a statement to America and inspired more athletes such as Kaepernick to eventually imitate their actions.

Kaepernick has also influenced others to stand up against oppression. More and more athletes have been kneeling during the national anthem ever since August, including Kaepernick’s teammate Eric Reid, Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks, and Megan Rapinoe, a gay player for Seattle Reign FC.

Even a few students and faculty at Winsor sat during the National Anthem at UTL. “While a sea of bodies have stood up, I will be sitting at the bottom of their feet,” explained a student who kneeled. “I believe that this is a physical representation of what some people must face every single day. Because I believe when you are physically and socially below someone, you live your life in fear. You do not have a voice, much less the same opportunities and rights that everyone else may have. I kneel in solitude to this feeling.” Another student who considered kneeling adds, “The National Anthem is a tribute to America, particularly the equality it has always upheld, and it seems logical that any American citizen would refuse to honor that in these times of racial chaos and injustice.”  

In the past, sports has maintained a relatively unbiased perspective on social issues, and is traditionally an escape from political tension. However, Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling has highlighted sports’ growing involvement in the discussion of social issues. Even Winsor students have taken notice and been inspired by his actions.