Magazine News Sport Volume 70, Issue 1

How a Kneel Changed America

Graphic by Susan Rahimi

Confusion swept through the minds of thousands of 49ers fans who were tuning into the San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers preseason game on August 26, 2016. The reason for the reaction laid upon the shoulders of former star quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As many stood for the playing of the National Anthem, a piece dedicated toward American ideals and values, Kaepernick was sitting down on the Niner’s bench, an act that could be perceived as immense disrespect towards those who fought bravely to keep the U.S. flag flying. But when interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about his sudden decision, the quarterback responded with, “[the United States] oppresses Black people and people of color.”

From there, Kaepernick began a silent movement amongst fans and the team, who were initially taken aback by the sudden protest. Yet on September 1, 2016, Kaepernick began his notable stance: the 28-year-old quarterback took a knee to protest racial injustice and police brutality during the Star-Spangled Banner. Almost immediately, sides were taken as to whether he should be cut from the team or if he had every right to kneel during the National Anthem. On the following Monday, President Barack Obama released a statement that supported Kaepernick’s choice, saying he was “exercising his constitutional right.” 

Kaepernick chose to opt-out of his contract with the 49ers towards the end of the 2016 season and still hasn’t signed back onto a team since. Fast forward to September of 2020, a little more than four years since his impactful movement, and many people are connecting today’s issues back to Kaepernick’s silent protest. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN reporters that he wished “[the NFL] had listened earlier” to Kaepernick’s protests.  Former Saint Mary’s College women’s basketball coach, Kesava Washington, spoke about how this all correlates: “I think Kap needed to start a conversation before people could truly feel George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and so many other tragedies. I think he ‘kneeled’ on the sword so things could get better, and we are starting to get there…I’d support their right to protest peacefully on a public stage highlighting the fact we as Americans say justice for all, but as a country, we really don’t practice that.”

On August 26, 2020 (the four year anniversary of Kapernick’s kneeling), the Milwaukee Bucks chose to boycott their fifth playoff game against the Orlando Magic teams to protest the recent shooting of Jacob Blake. Several other teams joined the protest, including some from within the MLB, NHL and the NFL, holding off practices for their upcoming 2020 season. Las Lomas senior Mason Reese stated, “Postponing a game in protest to police brutality should always be seen as right. The Bucks made a move like that…it ruffled some feathers and showed some awareness of the world.” When asked if he would kneel to protest injustice, the current varsity football player responded with, “I absolutely would. Taking a knee during games gets me a suspension…my way of protesting during games is going to the front and NOT putting my hand over my heart. It’s a small gesture.. it makes me feel like I’m still concerned for my community as a Black man.” 

The world as we know it is changing because of one brave man with an ambition to bring change. Sophomore Justine Weingartner, who is a part of Leadership at Las Lomas, talked about how much these circumstances have changed the view of millions. “It’s so easy for people to just ignore a news article or Instagram post bringing attention to situations of injustice towards Black people… it’s so important, especially as people who live in a wealthy and predominantly white area to understand our privileges and learn about the systemic issues that affect Black people in nearby communities.”