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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Athletes kneel down to protest against injustice


It is not uncommon for professional athletes to take stands against social issues, specifically racial inequality. Women’s National Basketball Association stars wore Black Lives Matters t-shirts during warm-ups prior to games. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade opened the 2016 ESPY Awards with a speech about police brutality. Yet none made their voice as loud as Colin Kaepernick, former American Football Conference Champion quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, has this football season.

Kaepernick sat during the playing of the national anthem in the 49ers first two preseason games, which went unnoticed by the public. It was the third preseason game held on Aug. 26 that Niners Nation journalist Jennifer Lee Chan tweeted a photo of Kaepernick, who was once again sitting on the bench while the anthem was sung.

He explained his reasoning in a postgame press conference, declaring he sat as an act against the oppression against people of color in America in line with the ongoing issue of police brutality.

He was met with a lot of backlash from former and current NFL players. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice condemned Kaepernick for disrespecting the flag.

Other players simply said they understand his purpose but disagree with his choice of action.

“I agree with his protest. I don’t agree with his method,” tweeted All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

Brees was not the only National Football League star to take to social media.

“If you want to make a point or take a stand, go straight after the root of that cause,” wrote former star Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward in a social media post. “Don’t disrespect the whole country or the organization that’s paying you millions of dollars.”

The story has gotten the attention of the nation now and people on-campus are beginning to give their takes on it.

Senior wide receiver C.J. Hobbs, whose parents both served for the U.S., spoke out against the methods Kaepernick took as well but saluted his purpose.

“The gesture is disrespectful to our military,” said Hobbs. “I would feel disrespected (if a teammate kneeled) considering, my parents served our country for their rights, but as a black man, I understand that these are indeed the rights they fought for.

“There are other ways to protest, but overall, I would feel disrespected and downgraded.”

While it was frowned upon by some, what Kaepernick did was not illegal. The NFL issued a statement saying, “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the national anthem.”

Kaepernick has responded to the anti-military comments by kneeling on the sideline as opposed to sitting on the bench during the national anthem now.

Some students believed his protest is an act of freedom of speech toward a pressing issue.

“It was peaceful,” said sophomore Darelle Pressley. “It was nonviolent. He did what he thought was right.

“People have to respect that.”

AlterNet journalist Adam Johnson highlighted the problems of the response that Kaepernick should have taken a different approached. He references Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which questions those who are “more devoted to order than justice.”

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action,’” King also says in the letter. “They are willing to settle for a negative peace.”

Kaepernick also stated that he is not doing this for himself, but for those who do not have a voice or platform as high as his.

“It’s an inspiration to those who want to speak out but might be too afraid,” said sophomore Jeremiah Minyard, elaborating on this point. Kaepernick’s stance has since become a spark to others in the NFL.

In contrast to the players speaking out against Kaepernick, there have been other players who joined him in protest.

Cornerback Jeremy Lane of the Seattle Seahawks was spotted sitting on the bench during the anthem prior to a preseason match-up with the Oakland Raiders. Three Miami Dolphins players took knees during the anthem before their Sept. 17 game against the New England Patriots.

Kaepernick continues his protest before each game and with others joining as well. His message is being heard. At the same time, his message is overshadowed by those who feel his action is disrespectful to the country as a whole and reflects badly on the NFL.

With opinions flying in from both sides, it will be interesting to see how far this story will develop throughout the NFL season.

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About the Contributor
Daequan Fitzgerald
Daequan Fitzgerald, Editor-in-Chief
Senior sport management major, and creative writing minor. Current defensive back for the Guilford Quakers football team.  This is his sixth semester with The Guilfordian and first serving as the Editor-in-Chief with the goal of highlighting the exciting and lively world that is the Guilford community.

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