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To Kneel or Not To Kneel?

Greg Corsale, Sports Editor

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By Robert Valeri and Greg Corsale

 

At the beginning of every sporting event, whether it’s at the professional or amateur level, the national anthem of the respective teams is played, while both the crowd and teams stand in respect. In the past month, many NFL players, most notably San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have been kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against recent strings of police brutality and racial inequality.

Kaepernick, who has been fighting for a starting quarterback position ever since the 49ers abysmal 5-11 record in the 2015-16 season, has brought back all the attention he possessed following the 49ers march to Super Bowl XLVII. However, it was not the attention of the coaching staff, but of the NAACP and fellow professional athletes such as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony, all who are taking a stand against the police brutality recently directed towards minority groups, most notably African Americans.

It all began before a preseason game between the Packers and the 49ers, in which Kaepernick decided to kneel, stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” However, he did not act on impulse, as Kaepernick made it clear that he decided to protest following months of watching civil unrest unfold towards African Americans. Kaepernick, who is biracial, was raised by a white family who he stressed were very supportive of his beliefs and actions, ensuring he had their support and was not blazing his own path on a very controversial topic alone.

While to many, Kaepernick may seem like the first of his kind, prior professional athletes have taken an active stand against standing for the national anthem. Chris Jackson, former player for the Denver Nuggets who converted to Islam during his NBA career and became Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, drew much flak from fans and was suspended for a short time by the NBA since he refused to stand with his teammates for the anthem since it conflicted with his Islamic beliefs. At only 29, when he should be in the prime of his career, Jackson was out of an NBA contract as the Nuggets decided not to re-sign him and he could not even land a tryout with any NBA team.

Kaepernick is still under contract with the 49ers, but has been downgraded from starting to back-up quarterback, and has been replaced by Blaine Gabbert, who like Kaepernick was also drafted in the 2011 NFL Entry Draft. Even though the 2015-16 NFL season is only 4 weeks old, he has yet to play a down in the regular season, with zeroes all across the board for his touchdowns, interceptions, and yards thrown or carried.

While Kaepernick is speaking a great deal through his actions, many fans, coaches, and fellow athletes have shown their support or lack of support for his actions. When asked for their stance on the whole debate, the 49ers took no clear side, saying, “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

 

 

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To Kneel or Not To Kneel?