The Ripple Effect of Colin Kaepernick Within and Beyond the NFL

Excerpt from the book, Policing Black Athletes: Racial Disconnect in Sports, (Peter Lang Publishers)

There are many venues where people voice dissent about anything and everything: Facebook, newspaper letters-to-the-editor, talk radio, and Twitter. I’ve assembled commentary from 2017–2020 on Twitter that are strongly against athlete protests.

While I don’t agree with these citizens, nor their logic, it is instructive to know how dissenters view athlete activism, patriotism and love of country, and issues of police brutality being debated.

Rarely does any dissenter comment on the social issue at hand — the multiple wrongful death shootings of civilians by “afraid for their lives” officers. There seems to be a conspiracy to avoid an honest discussion of very present issues.

This is in keeping with historical protests of African Americans that mostly have been met with, “This is not the place, and this is not the time.” I am conscious that though I might not agree with the below commentary, I don’t want to invalidate their concerns for our country.

I do understand their emotions, their fears and their devout patriotism. Which is why I feel it is important to voice their views. I have edited their commentary for clarity and ease of reading, not a usual custom in quoting individuals. But in this case, I want to privilege the central thought without evaluating any errors in communication.

I don’t want you to judge them — I want you to hear them. I’d want the same courtesy in an extended commentary about why police brutality rings true for many African Americans.

The anti-athlete/anti-free speech commentary fall under five general categories. Athletes are considered, 1) Anti-American, 2) Anti-Veteran, 3) Anti-Police, and also, 4) Politics don’t belong in sport, and 5) America — Love it or leave it. Get ready, because the haters will be out again this fall.

Athlete Protests are Anti-American

  • Kneeling for the National Anthem and disrespecting the Flag is not courage it is the exact opposite of courage and slaps those in the face that the flag and anthem is meant to honor. Those such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, JFK.
  • I wonder if you or they realize the flag they were taking a stand against was the same one that defeated the confederacy?
  • I stand for boycotting the NFL and its crybabies and will see by seasons-end who is still kneeling and disrespecting the USA.
  • Disrespecting this country is not OK. Those that do will continue to lose their fan base and your revenues will continue to go down.
  • Saying you are proud of players that disrespect our country & police while being good role models is what’s wrong with the NFL & you!
  • Divisive actions by players, disrespecting our country, should not be tolerated. NFL is an embarrassment. #BoycottNFL Year 2 #maga
  • NFL is a joke, un-American joke. You have lost all respect for the country and the country has lost respect for you
  • The behavior of the kneeling players is unacceptable. If you do not condemn the disrespect to our nation, then you condone it. #BoycottNFL
  • Taking a knee disrespect’s our country for all it’s good and for all who served. All who served of every ethnic background.
  • NFL players’ behavior is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not condemn it you are condoning it. Being anti-American is wrong.
  • You guys are all a part of the US. Act like it. No time served in the armed forces, no business ‘protesting’ the Nat’l Anthem.

Athlete Protests are Anti-Veteran

  • Kneeling during an anthem is not courage . . . Get that shit outta here. Go watch some WWII documentary to see real courage . . . jokers!
  • You and they are cowards. You think this is a way to make any point? Powerless actions that disrespect real heroes and unity. Dumb to follow a guy who grew up in [a] white family, privileged in sports & made mega money OFF this issue at the expense of our fallen and injured. Colin sucked.
  • Your defiance is at the sake of disrespecting those who are sworn to keep you safe. Stereotyping individuals of a profession or service is no different than stereotyping an entire race. It leads to hate, divisiveness, destruction of a peaceful society and above all bigotry.
  • Taking a knee disrespects blacks who fight and died but you know, “activism.”
  • The men and women who serve should get paid your salary instead! What Kaepernick did is messed up, you support his ideals? WOW.
  • I watched from 1971 to last year. No more. I’m an Army brat, and your players are disrespectful to the flag on soldiers’ coffins.
  • No, the players are a disgrace to the freedom we have and the things we do. They get paid [and their freedoms] were gained by the people who fought under that flag.

Athlete Protests are Anti-Police

  • Stand up, apologize to fans, owners, your country and all police world-wide and maybe The League will show you love.
  • The police and military make it possible for the players to get wealthy playing a boy’s game.
  • Coward! Respect and support our brave military and police who protect, serve and sacrifice — and do very much for all of us! I’m shutting off the NFL.
  • Saying you are proud of players that disrespect our country & police while being good role models is what’s wrong with the NFL and you!

Politics don’t Belong in Sports

  • Why does this have to occur on the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLB dime? Plenty of opportunities in life to stand for your beliefs on your time. Bringing your cause inside an organization that wishes not to have this to benefit you, or your cause is selfish and just wrong!”
  • Take it off the field.
  • You have got to be kidding — and to play for my Team @MiamiDolphins. Not my Team anymore. Must STOP @NFL.
  • Trump is right. Sport is not a platform for political messages. It is an event for human unity — not for opinions and agenda.
  • There is a time and place for everything. I don’t feel the football field is the proper forum for protesting. It should be done on your own time and not at your place of work. Most people would be fired if they protested at their jobs. Why do you feel you deserve special treatment?
  • The majority of us watch football just for football. It is our way to escape the real world for a Sunday and enjoy ourselves. The protesting ruined that and the numbers can back that up. The protest drove people away. Bottom line, teams want football players, not protestors.
  • Your first amendment rights should not apply while you’re on the clock at your job. The NFL players are being paid to do a JOB. You want protest? Do it on your own damn time! Normal people in society that have everyday jobs would NEVER be allowed to protest during business hours!!
  • You should resign. No one wants sports served with politics. The NFL is going down along with other sports that allow taking a knee.
  • Take a knee, refund my money! Keep politics out of my football! It is our last refuge from the Madness!
  • Screw the @NFL, the league has turned political, the newer rules suck and the knee-takers are just the icing on the cake; never again!
  • I STAND for the Flag! Have not watched an NFL game in over a year! NFL needs to stop the politics. I am not willing to pay to watch it!
  • Trump has already done more good for the black man than their so called brother (OBUMA) did in eight years. Play ball and leave the politics to people who know what they are doing.
  • Act like professionals and keep politics out of your jobs. You just lost another fan today. Keep it up — hope it’s worth it.

Protesting Athletes should Love America — or leave it!

  • “Racism? Because a couple groups hate the federal government & leftist views infecting society and marched about it? BULLSHIT. Lay off the crack. All I see are a bunch of victim-mentality punks who probably use the race card as an excuse for everything. Get the f*** outta here with that BS.”
  • I am ashamed. It’s the NATIONAL ANTHEM and if you can’t stand for it LEAVE THE COUNTRY!
  • Laughed my ass off. Dude, you’re so oppressed you get paid large stacks of cash to suck at football. Move to Russia and see what kinda life you can live there if this country sucks.
  • Racism? I see a bunch of stupid kids with probably a C- average looking for excuses. Enough of race card games!
  • Hasn’t the NFL employed more blacks than any other company? Given pay- checks and contracts to more blacks that has provided a life of “privilege?” Yet they are racist. They have a uniform policy, they have a no-weed policy, and a don’t-be-late policy. So if they say .
  • What do you know about being oppressed? You probably went to college on a full ride scholarship then got picked up by the NFL — why I don’t know, because you were a lousy player. Now you have tons of money trying to convince people that you are broke.
  • If they do not like the rules, they can find something else to do.
  • If @Kaepernick7 wants to protest, he should remove the NFL uniform and leave the stadium. He should not disgrace the NFL on their time.
  • I’ve lost all respect for you. The NBA [and NFL?] is boring anyhow. Move to another country. Military veteran from 2002–2006.
  • This country has made you rich. The least you can do is stand for two minutes. I agree with the POTUS: Stand for two [minutes] or go home for good.
  • Get out of our country! Bet we wouldn’t see you on the [military] front line. Take a knee in China
  • You are a football player, not a politician. The only time you get a say is on Election Day.

Celebrities Weigh in on Activism

This is America. Which means we are opinionated. And Hollywood is no exception, with movie stars and popular singers and performers weighing in on the controversy in society as voiced by athlete activism. Here is a smattering of pro-activist comments by some you’ll easily know, and others you don’t.

Ava DuVernay: I will not be a spectator, viewer or supporter of the #SuperBowl today in protest of the @NFL’s racist treatment of @Kaepernick7 and its ongoing disregard for the health + well-being of all of its players. To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs. It’s not worth it. #ImWithKap.

Cardi B: Colin Kaepernick, as long as you kneel with us, we’re gonna be standing for you, baby. That’s right, I said it [at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards].

Jay-Z: “I said no to the Super Bowl/You need me, I don’t need you/Every night we in the end zone/Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.”

Amy Shumer: Friday thought: I wonder why more white players aren’t kneeling. Once you witness the truly deep inequality and endless racism people of color face in our country, not to mention police brutality and murders. Why not kneel next to your brothers? Otherwise, how are you not complicit? I think it would be cool if @maroon5 backed out of Super Bowl like @badgalriri did. I personally told my reps I wouldn’t do a Super Bowl commercial this year. I know it must sound like a privilege ass sacrifice but it’s all I got. Hitting the NFL with the advertisers is the only way to really hurt them. I know opposing the NFL is like opposing the NRA. Very tough, but don’t you want to be proud of how you’re living? Stand up for your brothers and sisters of color. And the hottest thing a guy can do is to get down on one knee. Not to propose but to reject the treatment of his teammates by this country. Anyone who says it’s disrespectful to our military please read up on the fact that a lot of veterans are proud of what @kaepernick7 is doing and fully support him.

Angela Davis: We are never assured of justice without a fight. I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept. You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.#ImWithKap.

Colin Kaepernick: I can’t explain how much it means to have the support of the Icon Angela Davis! She has laid the foundation for [me] and many others to fight against anti-blackness, and has never wavered! We love and appreciate you!

Amber Tamblyn: Hi there. While you’re enjoying this mediocre Maroon 5 halftime please remember a football legend was blacklisted from this entire sport for merely putting his knee on the ground in protest of black people being murdered. Enjoy your pop music!

Goapele: Super what? Nah! I’m with @kaepernick7 #ImWithKap

Common: “If you stick a knife in my back 9 inches and pull it out 6 inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing the wound that the blow made. They won’t even admit the knife is there.” Malcolm x.

Piper Perabo: I am in solidarity with @Kaepernick and the struggle for racial justice #ImWithKap.

Nick Cannon: Forever “Standing” with my brother! @kaepernick7.

Eddie Vedder: Vedder took a knee during his headlining set at the Tennessee Pilgrimage Festival. Earlier that day, his band Pearl Jam, tweeted their support for protesters: “We support…@Kaepernick7, and everyone’s constitutional right to stand up, sit down or #takeaknee for equality.”

Stevie Wonder: Tonight I’m taking a knee for America. Not just one knee, but I’m taking both knees. Both knees in prayer for our planet, our future, leaders of our world and our globe. Amen.

Other supporters who wear the #ImWithKap jersey or who have kneeled to show support for the cause: Jalen Brown, Boston Celtics; Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors, and Stevie Wonder with Dave Matthews and the great Civil Rights activist, singer and actor, Harry Belafonte.

The truth is out there. X-Files “Scully and Mulder” kneel in support of people like me. Thank you. And I loved your show, by the way.

Dr. Andrews is an Oakland native and New Zealand citizen. His awesome new book is titled “Policing Black Athletes: Racial Disconnect in Sports” (NY: Peter Lang)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store