Why The Backlash Over NFL Players 'Taking A Knee' In Protest Has Everything To Do With Racism

Photo: NPR
Hatred For NFL Players Kneeling During The National Anthem Is Racism

It's not about the flag. Or the National Anthem.

Who knew that when ex-49er Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem it would spark such a huge debate?

*Raises hand*

I did. How did I know this? Because Kaepernick is black. And apparently in this country, a song and a flag mean to symbolize basic human rights are far more important than actually protecting those basic human rights.

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Kaepernick began his silent protest in 2016 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “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 told The Washington Post. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

His protest quickly caught on. Mostly among African-American players, though some white players kneeled alongside them in solidarity.

Unsurprisingly, the protest hasn’t come without its consequences. NFL fans voted Kaepernick the most disliked player in the league and he’s currently without an NFL contract.

And now, as the 2017 season is underway, both the athletes and the NFL as a whole are facing backlash from people who can’t fathom the idea of someone not standing during the national anthem.

Including, of course, our own president Donald Trump.

Again, this backlash is not surprising because the protest began in support of a black movement.

When Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets, criticizers called them thugs and condemned the entire movement for the few who went on to loot and get violent. In contrast, Kaepernick kneeled silently. Nonviolently. He didn’t stop the anthem or criticize those who joined in. He simply sat it out.

And yet, people are still against it.  


Related: I Wanted To Talk About The Racism, But I'm Tired Of Being Ignored By White People


Though people against the protest (like Trump) say:


I don’t buy it. Not for a single second.

For one, kneeling during the anthem has everything to do with race. Racism in America is the reason Kaepernick began kneeling in the first place.

That aside, those people against these NFL players' actions are the same people who have no problem disrespecting the flag and the anthem themselves on a regular basis.

They’re the same people who sit on their couches shoving potato chips into their mouths while the anthem is played instead of standing with a hand over their heart.

They’re the same people wearing the stars and stripes on a bandana around their head or as a t-shirt on the Fourth of July.

The same people who allow mold to grow on the flag hanging outside their house because they don’t take it in during the rain or at night.

They’re the same people groping the American flag (yes, the president really did this.)


They’re the same people showing disrespect for the U.S. Flag almost every day because, in reality, this isn't about about flag etiquette. This isn't about about the anthem.

This is backlash over the fact that black people are no longer passively allowing racism to prevail in this country.


Related: An Open Letter To My White Friends — What I WISH You Knew About Racism


In 2016, Trevor Noah sat down with Tomi Lahren and asked her a question I’m sure all black people in America would love to know the answer to.

“What is the right way for a black person to get attention in America?” he asked.


She didn’t have an answer, but I do.

It seems there is no right way for a black person to get attention in America.

There is no right way for a black person to protest.

Remember that the next time you chug a beer out of your American flag coozy. 

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