It was just another warm preseason game in late August when 28-year-old San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down during the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It wasn’t the first time he had sat out the anthem, and at the time, he had no expectations that his small act would create such a big ripple. Kaepernick, whose ethnic background is a mixture of African and European, has since knelt on one knee as a way of honoring servicemen and -women while still protesting social injustice. He told NFL Media that his protest was a matter of bringing awareness to the injustice happening all around them.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” he says. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick’s single action went viral, setting off a wave of solidarity acts from athletes across the country — from college and high school football players to athletes in other sports, including basketball, swimming, volleyball, cheerleading, and soccer. Hundreds of players, coaches, and fans are kneeling or raising fists in solidarity with Kaepernick, their actions aimed at shining a light on police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.
For Preston Brown, head football coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J., his decision to kneel during the national anthem wasn’t a difficult one. Politically, Brown already understood Kaepernick’s difficulty with standing for the anthem given the treatment of people of color in the United States.