Athletes and Activism: Take a knee


Brian Reiff

Donald Trump pokes fun at Wisconsin man’s continued unemployment.

It doesn’t have the right ring to it. But it’s just as accurate as all the other headlines that were out there this week.

On March 20, speaking at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump called out ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is a free agent. He referenced a Bleacher Report article that stated some NFL executives were worried about the backlash signing Kaepernick would generate for their team. He proceeded to gloat that he and his tweets were a significant reason Kaepernick hadn’t yet been signed.

Kaepernick, of course, received attention this past NFL season for refusing to stand during the national anthem before games.

His silent protest started during the first game of the preseason, according to NFL reporter Mike Garafolo. Then, in a game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26, his actions were brought into the spotlight for the first time, giving him a chance to explain his purpose.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview after the game.

Predictably, the reaction to Kaepernick’s actions was mixed. Some applauded his effort to give the issue more attention, while others denounced it as disrespectful.

Despite the criticism he faced, Kaepernick continued his protest. After the 49ers’ game Sept. 12 against the Los Angeles Rams, he further explained his reasoning and why he was continuing amid the backlash.

“For me, it was something that I couldn’t see another ‘hashtag Sandra Bland, hashtag Tamir Rice, hashtag Walter Scott, hashtag Eric Garner,’ the list goes on and on and on,” Kaepernick said. “At what point do we do something about it? At what point do we take a stand and as a people say this isn’t right?

“I think it’s become so blatantly obvious that athletes and people in general have to react,” he said.

His message evidently resonated with others in football. He was joined by teammate Eric Reid in taking a knee during the national anthem of the 49ers’ fourth preseason game, while Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat for the national anthem at his game on the same day. Others showed their support by raising their right fists.

Athletes from other sports got involved as well. One of the highest-profile examples was Megan Rapinoe, who kneeled as part of her club soccer team during the national anthem Sept. 4.

“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” Rapinoe said after the match.

Less than two weeks later, Rapinoe kneeled for the national anthem again, this time on a much bigger stage as part of the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

In response, the U.S. Soccer Federation released a statement, saying that it expected players and coaches to stand during the national anthem. More recently, though, they actually passed new policy saying players must stand respectfully.

Rapinoe will stand for the national anthem from now on.

But what of the decision made by U.S. Soccer? Its decision to force its players to stand is a serious one, revoking the ability to peacefully protest that had gained so much momentum.

Not only is the action a method of protest, but it’s also important in the sense of raising awareness. With minorities continuing to be prejudiced against, it’s perhaps more important than ever to keep up the fight for their equal rights.

However, it appears that many Americans out there still don’t believe this injustice exists. It’s only worsened by the fact that the presidential administration is part of the problem, filling the cabinet with prejudiced officials, repealing protections for LGBTQ citizens and discriminating against entire religions on the basis of fallacious security concerns.

Part of the reason Rapinoe felt the need to kneel was because of this complete disregard by much of the country.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it,” Rapinoe said. “It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums.”

Preventing athletes from standing, or kneeling, for what they believe in is not the solution to this problem. They’ll find another way to get their message across.

It is, though, a national embarrassment.

Brian Reiff, ’17, is the deputy sports editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Robert Davenport on

    I see a connection between this editorial and a comment on, Day 23 (Attempted Murder) in a post by Joanne about 10 hrs ago: “”Oneness” or unity is what came to
    my mind as Matthew was talking about our society murdering the truth and having individual, personal truths; we will never have peace under those circumstances. Everyone cries out and stomps their feet based on their own truths regarding religions, political agendas, racism, sexism, homophobia,etc., but if everyone recognized the objective truth that each one of us are children of the one true and living God, that we are all brothers and sisters of one large family, I dare to say, peace and true unity would reign eternally!”

    Mr. Trump seems not to be a proponent of the one large family idea. But Mr. Trump being in opposition to what you do does not make what you do acceptable. Mr. Kaepernick choose to promote a reasonable cause by a lack of respect for our country’s flag, which stands for the best in our country. The United States, like its’ citizens is flawed. Mr. Kaepernick has the freedom to protest as do others to protest his protest. In the minds of many people who have fought for or know those who have died for our country and its’ flag, this lack of respect is inexcusable. They should have respect for protesters.

    “Preventing athletes from standing, or kneeling, for what they believe in is not the solution to this problem. They’ll find another way to get their message across.

    It is, though, a national embarrassment.”

    I disagree. An athelete is usually a part of an organization which may or may not agree with a specific personal stance taken by one of its members. The reaction of the NFL or Lehigh is not a national embarrassment. Indeed protesters need to find another way to get their message across. It needs to be in a respectful manner.

    • The opinion piece should be focused and make a clear statement but this one meanders and is difficult to follow. I believe a quick peer review and some grammar edits could turn this into a much more powerful writing.

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