NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made kneeling during the national anthem famous. The biracial, adopted football player first began social activism by joining a black college fraternity to connect with his roots. Now at age 29, he’s taken it to a new level with controversial actions like wearing practice socks emblazoned with pigs in police hats.
NFL 2017 opening games kicked off with other players from the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and other teams also taking a knee. Even youth leagues The practice has even made its way into youth leagues. Do these kids even know why they’re kneeling?
Here’s one question that must be asked: Is it appropriate for Kaepernick to do on-the-job social activism? It’s okay if he does it on his own time, because all Americans have that right. But most employers have strict rules. Why is the NFL any different? Government employees cannot even have political party car bumper stickers, and in most professional workplaces, exhibiting extreme political opinions can be viewed by co-workers as workplace harassment.
What are coaches saying? Kaepernick’s own 49ers coach Chip Kelly said “We recognize his right to do that. It’s not my right to tell him not to do something. That’s his right as a citizen.” But other coaches have a different view. Giants coach Ben McAdoo said ”We consider it a small gesture to those who served and sacrificed their lives for our country and for us to play and coach in this great game. We certainly respect freedom of speech, but we have our team keep empathy in mind when they lead and use this league as a platform. I’d be disappointed if one our guys chose not to stand. It’s their choice. It’s not mandatory, but we feel it’s important.” Redskins coach Jay Gruden implied they have a team policy against it: “For three minutes, for us to take our helmet off and stand up and give respect is how we treat it here with the Washington Redskins.”
What do players say? Some players have followed Kaepernick’s lead and kneel during the anthem. Other players have urged everyone to just leave him alone. But some players, like World Series champion Darryl Strawberry, think Kaepernick should leave politics in the locker room. “The National Anthem stands for what America is all about regardless of what’s happening,” Strawberry said.
“I would tell them, really leave the politics alone as far as your job. You go out and do your job and play sports. I wouldn’t do it and I’m not against guys that are doing it, but we have a problem in America, and we need to come together as people, not color, but as people.”
As the 2017 season starts, Kaepernick sits on the couch instead of the sidelines. He remains unsigned. Players like Ray Lewis were working behind the scenes to get him signed by the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis said owner Steve Bisciotti had verbally promised to sign, but wanted to meet Kaepernick the next day. Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, sent out a racist tweet portraying Lewis and Bisciotti as slave and slave owner in a stance similar to that of Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie Django Unchained. Needless to say, the Ravens passed on Kaepernick. Hope it was worth it, Colin.