In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest the fact that police officers kill African-Americans with impunity. For peacefully protesting continued racial injustice in the United States, Kaepernick was met with hatred and vitriol.
Today, Kaepernick is, coincidently enough, out of a job, but the peaceful protest he started has spread rapidly throughout the NFL. And as these protests spread, the vitriol has only grown.
Take action: Support the Players’ Right to Protest
The President of United States, apparently not having a very busy schedule, has repeatedly taken to Twitter to demonize the predominantly African-American players taking a stand for civil rights. The Vice President, similarly a busy man, staged a publicity stunt when he made a trip to Indianapolis, costing up to $200,000 in public money, to attend a game in order to stomp out in a fit when some players took the knee, in order to further whip up the frenzy.
They are trying to shift the narrative, as our government always does, by calling into question the patriotism of those who protest. The issue is not patriotism, the issue is injustice, and we can not let Trump tell us the ‘right’ way to protest.
Take Action: Taking a Knee Is the Right Way to Protest
The President is leaning heavily on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the team owners to silence the players. And it seems to be working. Goodell voiced his willingness to coerce athletes to “honor our flag and our country” in the way the President wants them to. The team owners will meet next week and this will be at the top of their agenda.
This morning, Russell Okung, a Los Angeles Chargers lineman posted a letter on The Players’ Tribune in an effort to organize the players. He admits that at first, he didn’t approve of Kaepernick’s protest, but now he says,
There is now no doubt in my mind that what [Kaepernick] did last season was a courageous, prophetic, self-sacrificial act that has captivated a nation and inspired a powerful movement.
The movement is powerful, thus the backlash against it. Okung is trying to take the narrative back. This isn’t about the flag, or the military, it’s about police violence against Black Lives that goes unpunished. It’s about the right to call attention to injustice in order to end it.
Take Action: Stand Up for the Players’ Right to Take a Knee
This action is a coalition effort by the following groups:
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Color of Change
Defending Rights & Dissent
Democracy in Color
Jobs With Justice
People For the American Way
United We Dream