He kneeled during the National Anthem. In August of 2016 Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, earned nationwide attention through this action before an NFL game. This controversial action began a shocking protest against police brutality and racial injustice within the United States.
“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick explained. “To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick’s bold act of disapproval received a wide array of reactions. Within the NFL, Kaepernick received support from Denver Bronco Brandon Marshall, and New England Patriots Devin McCourty and Martellus Bennett. Based on the publicity caused by NFL players kneeling during the anthem, people around the country began mimicking this act in solidarity to Kaepernick’s cause. For example, in September of 2016, the entire football team of Garfield High School located in Seattle, Washington, knelt during the national anthem before their Friday night game to show their support for ending police brutality and discrimination.
Former President Obama stated that Kaepernick was simply exercising his rights and noted his success in bringing attention to the cause. On the other hand, President Trump was adamantly against Kaepernick’s protest, publicly declaring that the players who knelt ought to be fired, and that they “maybe shouldn’t be in the country.” Trump and others argue that these protests are disrespectful to our flag, our country and our soldiers. All Saints’ Coach, Shon Adams, has a different opinion.
“The conversation is not about the flag,” Adams said. “It’s not about the soldiers. To keep saying that is irresponsible and insensitive.” Adams also noted that, although he personally would not kneel, he has tremendous respect for those who do.
While Fort Worth Zoning Commissioner, Will Northern, agrees that the protest has nothing to do with the flag or the armed forces, but rather issues of police brutality and racism in America, he still finds that kneeling is disrespectful. Regardless of how kneeling during the National Anthem is perceived, because of the emotions it elicits, this protest has kept Americans talking.
“Protest should be something that catches the attention of the audience and shocks the conscience,” Adams said. “Choosing the anthem did that. Had he chosen something that no one cared about, it would be easier to continue to ignore the issues behind the protest.” If Kaepernick’s goal was to evoke emotion -good or bad – to draw attention to his cause, he succeeded.
While buzz about this gutsy protest continued for nearly a year, the public interest waned until the release of Nike’s new ad campaign in September of 2018 which featured Kaepernick. In addition to Nike’s iconic slogan “Just do it,” the ad also shows a close-up picture of Kaepernick’s face accompanied by the phrase: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike has taken a huge risk in launching this ad campaign and, similar to the public’s reaction to Kaepernick’s original protest, the reaction to Nike’s ad has also been varied, from #JustBurnIt to #IStandWithKap. Despite the risky new campaign and the resulting mixed reactions, Nike has received nearly 200,000 new followers on Instagram, and reached an all-time high in the stock market, according to CNBC.
Not only was the discussion of kneeling during the National Anthem reignited on a social level, but politically as well, when the topic extended itself to the 2018 Texas Senate race. Senate candidates Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz have both recently spoken publicly on this matter, each with contrasting opinions.
“I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace,” O’Rourke responded at a Houston town hall, when asked his opinion on the controversy. His response went viral, garnering support from celebrities such as, Ellen Degeneres, Kevin Bacon and Lebron James.
In contrast, Cruz responded that while “Liberal Hollywood” may buy into O’Rourke’s ideas, he doesn’t fit the ideals of most Texans. Northern agrees that while O’Rourke’s ideals may not resonate with most Texans, showing support to kneeling will help O’Rourke with his left-wing constituents.
Regarding O’Rourke’s public support of kneeling, Adams said, “It’ll probably hurt his race, but it’ll help mine.”